Mmmm… Chocolate

The dark variety of everyone’s favorite sweet treat can satisfy in more ways than one.

“All you need is love,” said Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz. “But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”

In fact, a little chocolate—specifically, dark chocolate—can actually help, researchers are finding. “The cacao bean is rich in plant nutrients called flavonoids,” says Sherri Flynt, manager of Florida Hospital’s Center for Nutritional Excellence. These powerful antioxidants appear to help prevent cell damage, reduce inflammation, prevent clotting, and provide other benefits that contribute to good health.

“There’s documented evidence on blood pressure,” says Lauren Popeck, a registered dietitian with Orlando Health. “Flavonoids act to widen and make arteries more flexible, which helps with blood flow.” 

Good blood flow promotes cardiovascular health by reducing blood pressure, and brain health by lowering the risk of stroke and heart attack.

There’s always room for small amounts of chocolate in a healthful diet, says Shannon Randall, a registered dietitian in Sanford. “The main things you want to avoid are a lot of added sugars,” she says, “and that’s where the dark chocolate comes in.”

Though somewhat bitter, dark chocolate has more of the flavonoids it started out with than milk chocolate. To create milk chocolate, sugar, cream and milk solids are introduced to provide a sweeter, creamier taste, diluting the concentration of flavonoids.

Popeck recommends taste-testing different brands of dark chocolate in your grocery store. Look for a cacao level of 70 percent or higher, she advises, referring to the amount of raw, unprocessed form of chocolate. “If the chocolate is high in its cacao percentage, usually it’s about 5 grams of sugar or less per serving,” whereas a typical milk chocolate candy bar contains more than 20 grams of sugar per serving, Popeck says.

Besides being good for the body, chocolate is good for the soul—and the reasons are all in the brain:

  • Endorphins: Consuming chocolate releases these neurotransmitters that create feelings of happiness. 
  • Serotonin: The tryptophan in chocolate boosts serotonin levels, improving mood.
  • Anandamide: This chemical in chocolate triggers dopamine production, creating a feeling of euphoria. Anandamide, derived from the Sanskrit word for “bliss,” binds to the same receptor sites in the brain as does the THC in cannabis.
  • Phenethylamine: Consuming chocolate releases this neurotransmitter known as “the love drug” because it produces the same feelings we experience when we fall in love.

Seriously. Who isn’t in love with chocolate? But to include it as part of a healthful diet requires moderation. Most experts recommend one-ounce “bites” a few times a week. 

“Because dark chocolate has a higher percentage of cacao,” Popeck says, “it’ll have more of that fat in there, so it’s very high in calories.” A one-ounce piece of dark chocolate candy that is 70-85 percent cocoa solids contains 168 calories, and 108 of them are from fat, according to a national nutrition database.

“You always want to keep in mind balancing your calories so you’re not gaining weight,” Popeck says, “but having that [dark] chocolate in place of a bag of chips or some other cookie or snack food is definitely a better choice.”

Edit Module
Want to read the whole issue? Download and read this issue and others on Magzter.

Add your comment:
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags

Guides & Resources

College Guide List 2019

2019 Premier Veterinarians

The 2019 Central Florida List is OUT! Each year Orlando Magazine publishes the Premier Veterinarians List. Take a look at the full list now.

2018 Premier Doctors

Our annual list of over 500 doctors.

Real Estate All Stars 2019

Let Orlando's best real estate agents help you find your dream home!

Retirement Living 2019

This feature highlights several great retirement communities that Central Florida has to offer.

Orlando's Best Lawyers 2019

Our annual list includes hundreds of Orlando-area attorneys in dozens of areas of practice.

Orlando's Top Dentists of 2019

Our annual list featuring 220 of the area's finest dental professionals.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

MoreRecent Blog Posts

Health Hub: Take The Feel Whole Challenge With Us

Now is the best time to start! Come take the Feel Whole Challenge with us!

Upgrade Your Specs! Oxford Eyes In Ivanhoe Village

Get ready for Fall with the latest eyewear trends and avoid those busy malls!

Focus On With Dr. Sadek: Women’s Health and Epilepsy

Did you know women face additional challenges with epilepsy due to hormones?

Health Hub: Why Are Flu Shots Important?

Fall has arrived, and with it, the start of flu season. While you can get the flu at any time, cases typically rise in October and hit their peak around the holidays. Learn why it's important to get your flu shot!

Special Olympics Florida Celebrates Its Annual Champions Gala

This annual exclusive event honors community leaders and fundraises for statewide athletics!
Edit Module