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is more than just a decadent treat. Recent research has shown
that chocolate -- especially dark chocolate -- is rich in
healthy antioxidants. Chocolate, like red wine, contains
substances called phenols, which are powerful antioxidants, and
have been shown to help prevent LDL cholesterol (the bad
cholesterol) from building up in the arteries.
What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants are substances found in many living things;
antioxidants help protect cells. Every living cell is subject to
damage by free radicals. Free radicals are atoms or groupings of
atoms (molecules) that are formed when some molecules are
exposed to oxygen; these unstable free radicals then interact
with other cells and components and can harm them and even cause
cancer. Antioxidants are able to stop free radicals from doing
their damage, so antioxidants are like the guardians of our
What antioxidants are in chocolate?
The specific antioxidants abundant in chocolate are members of
the phenol family called flavonoids. Flavonoids slow down the
oxidizing nature of LDL cholesterol and helps prevent it from
doing damage in the body. These same antioxidants have a
preservative effect on the chocolate and help to keep it fresh
for long periods of time. Studies of chocolate consumption have
also shown an increase in good cholesterol.
So, how does chocolate affect my chances of heart disease?
While studies are still underway on the direct effects of
chocolate consumption on heart disease and cancer, antioxidants
have been shown to reduce incidence of these diseases. It is
important to eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables and
whole grains, but a little chocolate is a great way to hedge
your health bets.
What chocolate sources have the most antioxidants?
Now that you know that chocolate has health benefits, it is
important to note that there are dramatic differences between
types of chocolate. Milk chocolate contains the lowest amount of
antioxidants; dark chocolate has far more concentrated amounts
of phenol per gram. In general, the darker and more concentrated
the chocolate, the more antioxidants it contains. But, what may
surprise many people is that the best chocolate source for
antioxidants is cocoa powder. A cup of hot chocolate made from
cocoa powder is almost as antioxidant packed as the powerhorse
beverage, red wine.
But, I still have to worry about fat and sugar in chocolate,
Well, yes. No one can live on chocolate alone. (Trust me, its
been tried.) However, chocolate is actually an ideal energy
source due to its combination of slowly absorbed fat and quickly
burned sugar energy.
As long as it is consumed in moderation, it can be a great part
of your healthy food plan. Use your cocoa powder with non-fat
milk to make hot chocolate for a relatively healthy treat or dip
fruit chunks in melted dark chocolate for a sweet and nutrient