Not quite. Research on dark chocolate has shown that it can be good for your health, but sadly, chocolate remains a high calorie treat and should not be the focus of your wellness plan. The Kuna Indians were the first to introduce the health benefits of chocolate. The Kuna, who live on an island off the coast of Panama, have an extremely low prevalence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. However, when they moved away from their traditional diet, rich in cocoa beverages, the Kuna started developing these diseases at a much higher rate. This knowledge spurred business and research interests to investigate how dark chocolate lowered diabetes and heart disease risks.
What does the research say? Unlike white or milk chocolate, dark chocolate has a powerful antioxidant punch. These antioxidants interact with other chemicals in the chocolate, which means it would be difficult to capture in a supplement, to prevent the damage of free radicals on our cells. (Free radicals have been linked to heart disease and cancer as well as more benign conditions like wrinkles.) The antioxidants also lower blood pressure by expanding blood vessels and help cells use glucose better by improving insulin sensitivity. All of which directly contribute to better heart health. However, more research will need to be done to determine whether diabetics and hypertensives would also benefit. It is not just any old chocolate that will make a difference. Dark chocolate is high in antioxidant-rich flavanoids, whereas white chocolate does not contain flavanoids at all and milk chocolate is low in them. Milk chocolate has low cocoa content and it is cocoa that contains the flavanoids. When choosing dark chocolates, opt for the more expensive ones, as they usually have higher levels of flavanoids. Specifically, buy bittersweet chocolate with at least 60 percent cocoa content.
Is there a daily recommendation for dark chocolate consumption? Some studies indicate that health benefits are seen with consumption of 100 grams (a block) of chocolate about the size of a deck of cards. Since this is nearly 500 calories, you need to think about other ways to get your antioxidants. One way is by eating vegetables, fruits and drinking teas or you will need to get a good dose more of exercise to control your weight. Keep in mind that chocolate is still at the top of the pyramid because of its high concentration of sugar and fat. So, eat it in moderation and scratch the idea of building that chocolate fountain in your bedroom but when you have the urge for a sweet treat, say yes to dark chocolate.