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Diet and Nutrition

Behold the Benefits of Chocolate

dark chocolate swirlYou might not have to think twice about enjoying that piece of chocolate anymore.  Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is a great example of the nutritionist’s saying that "there are no good or bad foods, just good and bad diets."

Eating as little as a quarter-ounce of dark chocolate a day could be good for you.  In people with mild high blood pressure, having a mini-candy bar serving of dark chocolate each day appeared to help lower their blood pressure.  This amount of chocolate has just 30 to 40 calories.  That compares to nearly 200 calories in full-sized bars.

 

Chocolate’s Benefits

Chocolate does not have a lot of vitamins and minerals needed to keep you healthy.  But it is rich in "phytochemicals".  These are plant-based compounds that nutritionists believe can give your health a boost. Several types of phytochemicals include:

Cocoa powder and dark chocolate are especially rich in flavonoids.

 

The Science Behind the Benefits

Right now, researchers are learning how these compounds work in your body.  For example, in a small 2004 study, participants ate 1.6 ounces of dark chocolate each day for two weeks.   That is about the size of a standard candy bar.  Researchers found that the flavonoid, epicatechin, was absorbed into the blood and appeared to help blood vessels dilate, or expand, which in turn:

 

The bottom line?

We still have a lot to learn about chocolate's health effects. We know that chocolate, like nuts and other fat-rich foods, packs a lot of calories in small packages. But enjoying a small amount in moderation certainly won't hurt and just might help overall health.

Any food, in moderation, can fit into a healthful diet. And if there are some added benefits, all the more reason to enjoy.

 

References:

Engler, MB., et al. “Flavonoid-rich dark chocolate improves endothelial function and increases plasma epicatechin concentrations in healthy adults.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, v. 23 issue 3, 2004, p. 197-204

Taubert, D., et al. “Effects of low habitual cocoa intake on blood pressure and bioactive nitric oxide: a randomized controlled trial.” JAMA : Journal of the American Medical Association, v. 298 issue 1, 2007, p. 49-60.

 

This article originally appeared in Chow Line, a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission.

 

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Last Reviewed: Feb 14, 2014

Josh  Bomser, PhD Josh Bomser, PhD
Associate Professor
Human Nutrition
Food Science & Technology
College of Education and Human Ecology
The Ohio State University