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CHOCOLATE HEALTH FACTS
Does chocolate cause cavities? Not necessarily. According to a recent study, cacao contains antibacterial agents that actually fight tooth decay. However, most mass-produced chocolate contains sugar, which probably counteracts the benefits of these agents.
Does chocolate cause acne? Not according to studies performed by the Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the U.S. Naval Academy. Eating or not eating chocolate made no difference in the skin condition of the study participants. In fact, most doctors believe that acne is not linked primarily to diet.
Will the caffeine in chocolate make me jittery? Probably not. Cacao does contain a number of stimulants, such as caffeine and theobromine, but in small amounts that are diluted even further when processed into chocolate. In fact, one ounce of milk chocolate contains about the same amount of caffeine as one cup of decaffeinated coffee. Interestingly, one study has shown that the smell of chocolate may actually relax you by increasing theta waves in the brain.
Can chocolate cause headaches? There is little evidence of this, although some studies suggest that chocolate may trigger headaches specifically in migraine sufferers.
Is chocolate an aphrodisiac? Not really. Chocolate contains small amounts of a chemical called phenylethylamine (PEA) that is a mild mood elevator. It’s the same chemical that our brain produces when we feel happy or "in love." The mild "rush" we get from this substance may be why some people say they’re "addicted" to chocolate.
Will chocolate raise my cholesterol levels? Contrary to popular misconception, eating lots of chocolate does not raise blood cholesterol levels. Chocolate contains stearic acid, which is a neutral fat that does not raise bad cholesterol (LDL). Also, the cocoa butter in chocolate contains oleic acid, a mono-unsaturated fat. This is the same type of fat found in olive oil that may actually raise good cholesterol (HDL).
Will eating chocolate make me fat? It can—if you eat enough of it. Chocolate, especially milk chocolate, is high in calories. In fact, it was once prescribed to help fatten up patients suffering from wasting diseases like tuberculosis. However, some people claim that drinking a cup of hot chocolate before a meal actually diminishes their appetite. One researcher even experimented with helping patients lose weight by having them sniff a chocolate-scented patch whenever they were tempted to snack!
Does chocolate contain any nutrients? Yes, it does, in small amounts. A 1.5-ounce milk chocolate bar contains recommended daily values of the following vitamins and minerals: 3 grams of protein; 15% of the Daily Value of riboflavin; 9% of the Daily Value for calcium; 7% of the Daily Value for iron. And if you add nuts like almonds or peanuts into the mix, you increase all of the amounts of nutrients listed above.
Will I live longer if I eat chocolate? Perhaps. A Harvard University study found that men who ate chocolate lived one year longer than those who didn’t. Scientist think that chocolate contains chemicals that help keep blood vessels elastic and increase beneficial antioxidants in the bloodstream, but research is underway and no conclusive results have been found.
Many people eat chocolate when they are sad or feeling down. Others crave the stuff, claiming they are addicted to chocolate’s unique taste and smell. Some even assert that chocolate can relax you, help you lose weight, and even prolong your life.
Scientists have conducted a number of studies on chocolate in recent years in order to sort through these claims. What they have discovered will not only surprise you, but may forever change the way you think about, buy, and eat chocolate.
Is Chocolate Addictive? Millions of chocolate lovers insist that the sweet not only lifts their spirits when they are sad or upset, but also hooks them like a drug. Is there any hard evidence to support their claims? Not really.
Chocolate can’t give you a strong, physical "rush."Chocolate contains more than 300 chemicals, including stimulants such as caffeine and theobromine. But these stimulants aren’t present in large enough quantities to significantly affect the brain and nervous system.
Chocolate isn’t chemically habit-forming. In addition to these two stimulants, chocolate contains cannabinoids, chemicals that have the same affect on the brain as marijuana. To get "high," however, you would have to eat more than 25 pounds of chocolate in one sitting. And these chemicals cannot make you physically addicted to chocolate.
Chocolate can elevate your mood. Despite the above facts, self-professed chocolate addicts aren’t delusional. Some researchers believe their obsession is more likely the result of learned behaviors and cultural factors rather than chemicals. As for chocolate’s mood-altering properties—carbohydrates present in the sweet can raise serotonin levels in the brain and lead to a feeling of well-being.Chocolate: A Heart-Healthy Treat. Many people think chocolate is about as healthy as a stick of butter. However, recent studies are proving that, in addition to cacao and sugar, chocolate may contain some healthful ingredients.
Chocolate contains flavonoids and anti-oxidants. According to these studies, chocolate is chock-full of flavonoids—naturally-occurring compounds found in the cacao plant, as well as in red wine, tea, fruits and vegetables. Recent research suggests that these flavonoids may have potentially beneficial effects on cardiovascular health. They may also act as antioxidants, which are believed to prevent or delay certain damage to the body’s cells and tissues.
Eating chocolate will not raise your cholesterol. Chocolate and cocoa butter contain two main saturated fats (palmitic and stearic acids) and one mono-unsaturated fat (oleic acid). Unlike other saturated fats, stearic acid is a neutral fat and does not appear to raise bad cholesterol (LDL). Oleic acid is the same type of fat in olive oil and may actually raise good cholesterol levels (HDL).
But chocolate also contains sugar and fat. Most of these studies don’t address how much chocolate is needed to achieve heart benefits, nor do they mention any long-term benefits or risks of eating chocolate. In addition, most chocolate consumed today is milk chocolate, which is high in saturated fat, sugar, and calories—none of which qualify as heart-healthy. So before you stick a bag of candy in your medicine cabinet, you may want to wait until additional research is completed. The link between chocolate and a healthy heart needs further clarification.Choosing Healthy Chocolates. As some recent studies suggest, chocolate—in moderation—may be good for your health. For instance, chocolate contains antioxidants (which may help prevent cardiovascular disease) and stearic acid (which may increase levels of HDL "good" cholesterol).
Not all chocolate is healthy. A single bar of dark chocolate contains more than twice as many antioxidants as a bar of milk chocolate. Also, dark chocolate harbors fewer calories than milk chocolate. Milk chocolate is much higher in saturated fats and calories simply because it contains milk. Also, it contains fewer cocoa solids per ounce (and thus fewer antioxidants). In fact, it takes four cacao seeds to make one ounce of milk chocolate and 12 seeds to make one ounce of dark chocolate. About the only health advantage milk chocolate has over dark chocolate is that is contains calcium.Protect Your Pets. While chocolate may help protect the human heart, lower bad cholesterol, and even provide a quick energy boost, it can be dangerous to your pets.
Chocolate contains chemicals that dogs and cats cannot process. Dogs and cats can’t metabolize or excrete theobromine, a mild stimulant found in chocolate. In some pets, theobromine can trigger seizures, cardiac irregularity, internal bleeding, and can even lead to death.
Each pet responds differently to chocolate. How a pet will react depends upon its health and size, as well as the amount and type of chocolate consumed. Dark chocolate, for instance, contains a lot more theobromine than milk chocolate, and thus is much more dangerous. Although theobromine is poisonous to dogs and cats alike, dogs are more likely to consume chocolate if left unsupervised.
Seek immediate medical attention for your dog. If you suspect your dog has eaten a large quantity of chocolate (or is feeling sick after eating a small amount of chocolate) you should take it to a vet immediately. And remember, chocolate is dangerous to animals whether it is in the form of a cake, cookies or ice cream.Chocolate Exhibit Home »
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