Chocolate lovers, especially the one with the highest cocoa content, are celebrating. Study after study confirms that in addition to delicious, it can even benefit health, especially the heart, reducing heart risk, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. But before you run to open that box of chocolates, you should know what kind of chocolate brings these benefits and what amounts you should eat.
For many, a piece of chocolate is equivalent to a piece of heaven. Rightly theobroma , the scientific name of the cocoa tree from which chocolate is extracted , means in Greek “food of the gods”. It turns out that, in addition to delicious, it is rich in fat and calories. The soldiers of the two world wars included it in their rations for their caloric intake and the ease of transporting it. They even say that even Napoleon during his military campaigns carried pieces of chocolate with him to replenish his energies and that another emperor, an Aztec: Moctezuma 11 used it as the viagra of his time, drinking several cups of chocolate before selecting company among his 700 wives and concubines.
We give it as a token of affection and affection, the same in boxes as in tablets, but if you love yourself, consider eating a small piece of dark chocolate rich in cocoa from now on. But just a bit! According to a recent study conducted at the University of Cambridge in the UK and whose reports were included in the journal BMJ , people who eat dark chocolate regularly could reduce the risk of heart disease by up to one third.
There’s the problem, since scientists are not sure that the disadvantages of cocoa consumption (such as potential weight gain) outweigh the benefits. As also the way in which cocoa is processed also determines whether the bar or chocolate drink is beneficial or not for health, recommend a moderate consumption of chocolate rich in cocoa (black) in small portions that do not increase too much calories. Lona Sandon, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at Southwestern Medical Center advises, for example, to drink hot chocolate but with skim milk, use black cocoa powder to crown a cappuccino, or use cocoa powder in recipes that require chocolate to reduce the content caloric total and take advantage of the benefits of chocolate.
On the other hand, a new study, this time from the Harvard Medical School, found that eating a small serving of dark chocolate a day could reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension.
The study analyzed about 24 studies on the benefits of chocolate that involved about 1,106 people and found that dark chocolate, the type that contains at least 50 to 70% cocoa, reduced the blood pressure of all participants, but remarkably, the blood pressure of those who suffered from hypertension. One of the co-authors of the study, Dr. Eric Ding, also found that chocolate increased insulin sensitivity, which reduces the risk of developing diabetes. Not only that: dark chocolate seems to have an effect on low-density harmful cholesterol, reducing its levels, although it had no effect on triglyceride levels. The positive effects, as in the studies cited above, are attributed to the flavonoids that are very abundant in cocoa beans. Chocolate with a higher proportion of cocoa (like dark and unsweetened chocolate) contains the highest amount of flavonoids, from 46 to 61 mg per 100 grams (about 1 ounce) of chocolate, compared to milk chocolate which contains only about 15 or 16 mg per ounce, according to the study. Dr. Ding recommends moderation in quantities and then, selecting chocolate with the least amount of sugar possible and the highest proportion of cocoa (by 70%).
Not all chocolates are the same. Learn to distinguish them
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) defines chocolates in different categories according to their cocoa content. The higher this is, the higher the content of flavonoids beneficial to the heart. To determine which chocolate gives you the most health benefits, read the labels on which the percentage of cocoa should be included. The one that suits you best is dark, which contains 60 to 70% cocoa and is often called bitter, or extra bittersweet, they contain a small amount of sugar to give them flavor and a healthy amount of flavonoids.
You will find other classifications on the labels according to the taste or even the amount of sugar they contain. So you can choose more accurately, remember the following:
- Unsweetened chocolate has 100% cocoa
- Bitter chocolate may contain 35 to 99% cocoa. To be in this category, you must include at least 35% pure chocolate without sweetening and less than 12% milk. The broadest category, that of bitter chocolate may include products described on the label as bittersweet, semi-sweet, dark, extra dark or extra-bitter. Check also the percentage of cocoa.
- Sweet chocolate: it has 15 to 34% cocoa and must contain at least 15% pure or bitter chocolate and less than 12% milk. Some products can even be classified as dark chocolate although they contain a lower percentage than bittersweet.
- Chocolate milk: contains at least 10% bitter chocolate, 12% milk and 4% fat from milk.
Keep this information in mind when you have to decide between so many options and brands of chocolate available in the market, either to eat it alone or to use it in your recipes. The message of clinical studies is simple: less is more. If you want a rule that guides you, use the following: more percentage of cocoa and less quantity. So you can control calories and weight without having to deprive yourself of the rich taste of chocolate or its many benefits, especially for your heart.