CHOCOLATE: THE HEALTHY SNACK
As we know, Chocolates are made from cocoa. Now what has researchers got to say about the latest findings on cocoa?. Read on-
While it’s known that cocoa powder (the major component of chocolate) is rich in antioxidants including catechin and epicatechin, along with a small amount of fiber, it was thought that these molecules were poorly digested and absorbed due to their large size.
The new study found, however, that your gut bacteria breaks down and ferments the components in dark chocolate, turning them into anti-inflammatory compounds that benefit your health. In particular, beneficial microbes including Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria “feasted” on chocolate, according to the researchers.
The study, which involved three cocoa powders tested in a model digestive tract, may help explain why chocolate has been found to be so good for your heart, as the anti-inflammatory compounds may reduce inflammation of cardiovascular tissue.
Probiotics in Black Chocolate May Boost Health Benefits
Latest research suggested that consuming cocoa along with prebiotics may be one way to encourage the conversion of polyphenols into highly absorbable anti-inflammatory compounds in your stomach. Prebiotics are carbohydrates found in whole foods that you can’t digest… but which beneficial bacteria can, acting as “food” for them.
Unprocessed whole foods, such as onions and garlic, are among the best prebiotics, so if you’re eating right, you should be getting plenty of prebiotics. It would seem that taking steps to encourage healthful gut bacteria, in general, would also ensure that you have enough beneficial bacteria available to help break down and ferment the healthy substances in cocoa.
This includes not only avoiding sugar and grains but also eating naturally fermented foods and/or taking a high-quality probiotic supplement. One of the major results of eating a healthy diet like the one described in mynutrition plan is that you cause your beneficial gut bacteria to flourish, and they secondarily perform the real “magic” of restoring your health. Interestingly, the researchers also suggested consuming dark chocolate with antioxidant-rich solid fruits, such as pomegranate or acai, as another way to boost its health potential.
Chocolate and Your Heart: Latest Research
A seven-study meta-analysis sought to find a link between chocolate consumption and certain cardiometabolic disorders, such as coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Along with those disorders are related problems like hypertension, elevated fasting glucose and triglycerides, high cholesterol, and abdominal obesity.
But rather than negative effects, scientists found that chocolate – specifically the dark unprocessed raw cacao kinds – actuallyreduced the risk of such disorders.
*In fact, the highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29 percent reduction in stroke compared with the lowest levels! Other research has also shown that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in chocolate may lower your risk of heart attack and stroke considerably.
*Small amounts of dark chocolate can cut your risk of heart attack because, like aspirin, chocolate has a biochemical effect that reduces the clumping of platelets, which cause blood to clot. Platelet clumping can be fatal if a clot forms and blocks a blood vessel, causing a heart attack.
*Specially formulated raw cocoa powder has the potential to prevent cardiovascular disease in diabetics. When diabetic patients were given a special high-flavonol cocoa drink for one month, it brought their blood vessel function from severely impaired to normal. The improvement was actually as large as has been observed with exercise and many common diabetic medications.
*Researchers also discovered that a compound in dark chocolate, called epicatechin (a flavonoid), may protect your brain after a stroke by increasing cellular signals that shield nerve cells from damage. A stroke is similar to a heart attack, but occurs when the blood supply to your brain becomes blocked or reduced, as opposed to blocking the blood supply to your heart.
*Another one of the ways chocolate may provide cardiovascular benefit is by assisting with nitric oxide metabolism. Nitric oxide protects your heart by relaxing your blood vessels and thereby lowering your blood pressure. However, nitric oxide production produces adverse reactions and toxic metabolites, which must be neutralized by your body so they don’t result in oxidative damage to your blood vessel lining (by peroxynitrite oxidation and nitration reactions). Cocoa polyphenols protect your body from these metabolites and help counter the typical age-related decline in nitric oxide production.
Chocolate may lower cholesterol levels
Chocolate consumption may help reduce LDL cholesterol levels. A study published in The Journal of Nutrition was carried out to determine whether chocolate bars containing plant sterols (PS) and cocoa flavanols (CF) have any effect on cholesterol levels. The study authors wrote “results indicate that regular consumption of chocolate bars containing PS and CF as part of a low-fat diet may support cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol and improving blood pressure.”
Chocolate may prevent memory decline:
Scientists at Harvard Medical School suggest thatdrinking two cups of hot chocolate a day may help keep the brain healthy and prevent memory decline in older people. The researchers said that hot chocolate can help preserve blood flow in working areas of the brain. The lead author, Farzaneh A. Sorond, said:
“As different areas of the brain need more energy to complete their tasks, they also need greater blood flow. This relationship, called neurovascular coupling, may play an important role in diseases such as Alzheimer’s.”
Cocoa has also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, which Pereira points out could be a related mechanism—both getting a boost from the polyphenols, the antioxidants in cocoa. Research published earlier this year in Endocrine Abstracts showed that polyphenols in chocolate improved insulin sensitivity even in people who did not have diabetes. Adults consumed 20 grams of either polyphenol-rich or polyphenol-poor dark chocolate. Those with the extra polyphenol boost showed better insulin sensitivity after just a month.
Risks and precautions:
Chocolate has a high calorie count, containing large amounts of sugar. Therefore, if you are trying to slim down or maintain your weight, it may be a good idea to set a limit on your chocolate consumption. The large amount of sugar in most chocolates can also be a cause of tooth decay.
In addition, there is research suggesting that chocolate may cause poor bone structure and osteoporosis.
One study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, was carried out to identify the relationship between chocolate consumption and bone density in older women. The authors concluded that “older women who consume chocolate daily had lower bone density and strength”.
Therefore, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional binge on the original Dark Chocolate. Take care to pick the original one. But take care not to do it as chocolates are high in sugar content which could sabotage all its healthfulness if excessively indulged, leading to obessity, diabetes and CVDs.
The author Prince
Hi, I’m Prince.. a registered Dietitian, an avid reader and a passionate writer. I hope you enjoy my articles as much as I enjoy writing them