The quick answer: You women (and the occasional men) who read this blog are exceptional—you get nutrition and you care enough to make changes. For all you do, you deserve a treat—like chocolate.
The Joy of Eating
Though I’m both a descendent and a respecter of the Puritans who founded our country . . . we’re not puritanical when it comes to food. It’s good to enjoy food, especially in the company of family and friends. That’s our position but we’re talking about real food, not the packaged food-like substances made in factories.
Which brings us to the subject of chocolate. In an interesting survey, Americans associated chocolate cake with guilty pleasure, while the French linked it with celebration. No Puritans in France it seems, but on the subject of food we can learn from the French.
Chocolate isn’t yet proven to be a health food—we should make that clear. On any given day, an apple, orange, or banana is probably a better idea than a chocolate treat. But life is to be enjoyed and I want to think there’s room for both—like melted chocolate drizzled over fruit.
There are both healthy and unhealthy ways to enjoy chocolate. Basically, dark chocolate is healthier than milk chocolate, or white chocolate. With dark chocolate (60-90% cocoa) you get more of the natural good stuff in chocolate and less additives like sugar.
I just checked the shelf where the beautiful wife keeps her treats. Sure enough, there was a bag of Ghiradelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips. Whether you spell it cacao, like the British, or cocoa, it’s her favorite treat. I like it too, with almonds or walnuts.
- Magnesium: Chocolate is rich in magnesium. Americans are widely deficient of this mineral (see this post), so essential to bone health and many human enzymes. The Nurses Health Study found that women with the highest level of serum magnesium had 77% less risk of fatal heart attacks than women with the lowest level. Chocolate is good for your bones, as well as your heart.
- Antioxidants: Critical to fighting the free radicals that cause premature aging, antioxidants are plentiful in chocolate, as well as broccoli, blueberries, red grapes, strawberries, and apples. For more on antioxidants, go here.
- Vascular health: A recent Harvard study of 2575 people found that cocoa consumption reduced blood pressure (by about 5 systolic points on average), improved blood vessel health, and lowered cholesterol, among other benefits. Chocolate consumption also helped diabetes.
The Century Rule
You may be wondering, isn’t chocolate a highly processed food? Actually, it is. But we turn to the Century Rule, which says that processed foods should be used for at least a century before being considered safe. Cocoa has been consumed for millennia and is linked to many health benefits. So, like spices, also rich in antioxidants, it’s a traditional processed food with a beneficial history. But remember chocolate is a concentrated source of calories so it’s best enjoyed with fruit and nuts.
Please comment: Share your favorite ways to enjoy chocolate, especially those that are healthiest.