Healthy Food – Never Forsake Dark Chocolate

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The ILEAD Company® welcomes you to Fitness Friday. On Fridays, I will educate you on becoming mentally sound and physically fit. Nutrition and Fitness is influential!

We are still on this super food kick. Yes! Call me Mrs. Superfood. And today, our focus will be upon dark chocolate.

Healthy Food – Never Forsake Dark Chocolate

Believe it or not, dark chocolate is a Superfood. For many of us, this is a dream come true. Interesting many people have reported that once they think of chocolate as a food that’s beneficial to their health, even though they still love and enjoy it, because it’s no longer “forbidden,” for some reason they’re less tempted to over-indulge.

Let’s not forget that chocolate (dark or otherwise) even though it’s a Superfood, is still high in calories and if you eat too much of it you risk gaining weight.

When you do indulge in chocolate and you’re looking for a health benefit, choose dark chocolate. Milk chocolate or white chocolate (the latter isn’t even real chocolate) won’t do. While both contain some of the beneficial polyphenols[62] (though in lower amounts than dark chocolate), preliminary data suggest that the presence of milk in the chocolate somehow mitigates the effectiveness of the polyphenols.

Dark chocolate seems to contribute to lowering blood pressure, increasing blood flow, and ultimately contributing to a healthy heart.

Chocolate is about 30 percent fat, 5 percent protein, 61 percent carbohydrate, and 3 percent moisture and minerals. The magic in the mix as far as health benefits are concerned is the polyphenols, specifically the flavonols.

What are Flavonols?

Flavonols are plant compounds with potent antioxidant properties. Cocoa beans, along with red wine, tea, cranberries, and other fruits, contain large amounts of flavonols. Research is now suggesting that the flavonols in chocolate are responsible for the ability to maintain healthy blood pressure, promote blood flow, and promote heart health.

Dr. Norman K. Hollenberg and His Research

A physician and researcher at Brigham Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Dr. Norman K. Hollenberg, observed that the Kuna Indians, the indigenous residents of the San Bias Islands of Panama, rarely develop high blood pressure even as they aged.

Studies indicated that neither their salt intake nor obesity was a factor in this seeming immunity. Moreover, when the islanders moved to the mainland, their incidence of hypertension soared to typical levels seen in non-natives, so their protection from hypertension was probably not due to genetics. Hollenberg noticed one aspect of native culture that might play a role: The San Bias Island Kuna routinely drank about five cups of locally grown, minimally processed, high-flavonol cocoa each day. He gave his study subjects cocoa with either high or low amounts of flavonol. Those who drank the high-flavonol cocoa had more nitric oxide[49] activity than those drinking the low-flavonol cocoa.

The connection between the ability of the nitric oxide to relax the blood vessels and improve circulation and thus prevent hypertension seemed obvious.

Hollenberg is continuing his investigation. He recently completed a pilot study that found that subjects who drank a cup of high-flavonol cocoa had a resulting increased flow of blood to the brain that averaged 33 percent.

Research also suggests that atherosclerosis begins and progresses as a gradual inflammatory process. It normally involves years of chronic injury to the lining of the blood vessels. As the lining—or endothelial cells—is damaged, atherosclerotic plaques, or fatty deposits, are formed on the walls of the blood vessels. These plaques both impede the flow of blood and can rupture, leading to a blood clot which could precipitate a heart attack or stroke.

Chocolate seems to ward off such problems. The polyphenols in chocolate relax the smooth muscle of the blood vessels. In addition, it seems that these polyphenols also inhibit the clotting of the blood. In a 2001 study, volunteer subjects were given a commercial chocolate bar (Dove Dark) containing 148 mg of flavonol. The end result was that the volunteers showed reduced levels of inflammation and beneficial delays in blood clotting at two and six hours after ingesting the chocolate.

Ordinarily, foods that are high in fat would never make it to Superfood status. Chocolate is the rare exception for a variety of reasons. While chocolate is approximately 30 percent fat, the fat in it, known as cocoa butter, is approximately 35 percent oleic acid and 35 ,percent stearic acid. Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fat that has been shown to have a slight cholesterol-lowering effect. Stearic acid is a saturated fat, but it does not raise blood cholesterol levels.

Results of Additional Two Studies

At least two studies have shown that chocolate consumption doesn’t raise blood cholesterol in humans. Indeed, in one three-week trial, forty-five healthy volunteers were given 75 grams of either white chocolate, dark chocolate, or dark chocolate enriched with polyphenols daily. As you might guess, since white chocolate has no chocolate liquor and isn’t real chocolate, it had no effect, but the dark chocolate increased HDL (”good” cholesterol) by 9 percent and the enriched chocolate increased HDL by 14 percent. As higher HDLs are known to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, the argument for including chocolate in your diet is strong.

So, perhaps you may want to include dark chocolate in your diet. Chocolate, in moderation, does a body good.

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