Monday, April 28, 2008


A 2003 book by Rowan Jacobsen entitled "Chocolate Unwrapped: The Surprising Health Benefitsof America's Favorite Passion" discusses how chocolate, a treat many were taught causes a host of bad things to happen to our bodies (namely our fat cells and teeth) , may actually be beneficial to our health. Here are highlights of the book description, from its Amazon webpage:

...recent studies [have] revealed ...that [c]hocolate protects you from heart disease... improves cholesterol levels... [and] may even help prevent some cancers. ...Evidence is piling up that chocolate has a list of health benefits few foods can match. We’re all familiar with antioxidants, the compounds found in fruits, vegetables, red wine, and tea that prevent heart disease, cancer, and premature aging. What we don’t hear is that chocolate has the highest concentration of antioxidants of any food on the planet — ten times that of spinach, five times that of blueberries, and four times that of green tea.

Chocolate Unwrapped explains the science behind chocolate’s health benefits, then goes on to dispel the myths swirling around chocolate. Chocolate does not cause acne, allergies, migraines, or hyperactivity. Chocolate has much less caffeine than most people think. And tannins in chocolate actually help prevent cavities, making chocolate better for teeth than other sweets. Though there is no proof for chocolate’s reputation as an aphrodisiac ... chocolate has clear effects on the brain and mood. Chocolate contains anandamide, a substance that activates the same receptors in the brain as marijuana, as well as other chemicals that causes feelings of excitement and well-being, explaining the natural craving many people feel for it.

Chocolate Unwrapped not only explains the positive physical and psychological effects of chocolate, but goes on to explore the colorful history, botany, and chemistry of chocolate, so you’ll understand what to look for and what to avoid. A recipe section provides a multitude of healthy ways to eat chocolate, from flourless chocolate cake to Mexican mole, and a comprehensive list of resources tells you where to find the best-quality chocolates in the world.

Here are a few expert comments from the book's inside flap:

"I do recommend a piece of good-quality dark chocolate as a healthy snack . . . it is a source of polyphenols, the same type of antioxidants found in red wine, and the fat it contains is stearic acid, which doesn’t affect cholesterol levels. The latest good news for chocolate lovers comes from a study indicating that flavonoids in chocolate are good for your heart. These compounds reduce the stickiness of platelets, cells that play an important role in blood clotting. By eating a 1.5-ounce milk chocolate bar, you get the same amount of these protective compounds as in a 5-ounce glass of Cabernet Sauvignon." Andrew Weil, M.D.

"Nitric oxide plays such an important role in the maintenance of healthy blood pressure and, in turn, cardiovascular health. If our research results continue to support a link between consumption of flavanol-rich cocoa and nitric oxide synthesis, there could be significant implications for public health." Norman Hollenberg, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard Medical School

"Chocolate contains large amounts of the same beneficial plant chemicals that now have burnished the reputation of tea. In fact, just one ounce of chocolate has about as much of these plant chemicals as a cup of brewed black tea. One large, ongoing study of the benefits of exercise found that men who eat chocolate in moderation live longer than those who eat none." University of California-Berkeley Wellness Letter

"We already know that increased consumption of fruits and vegetables results in an increase of antioxidants in our blood. We believe chocolate consumption may have the same effect. We forget that chocolate is derived from cocoa beans—the fruit of the cacao tree—a fruit that is a rich source of these potentially beneficial substances." Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University

"Eating chocolate can have significant influences on mood, generally leading to an increase in pleasant feelings and a reduction in tension." Peter Rogers, Ph.D., Institute of Food Research

No comments: