Eat Your [Chocolate] Vegetables!June 11, 2012
My final post (at least for now) on good fats: CHOCOLATE! Not every bar is created equal, but the good stuff (dark and as close to the original vegetable, the cocoa bean, as possible) is very good for you!
Chocolate is a champion antioxidant. Antioxidants help rid the body of free radicals, nasty little molecules running amok in your body which cause aging and disease. Antioxidants bond to free radicals and whisk them from your body via digestion and other means.
Quick. Think of the best antioxidants you’ve ever heard of. Red wine? Green tea? Pomegranate? Blueberries? Dark chocolate leaves them all in the dust. The USDA published a chart of antioxidant foods measured in ORACs (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity Units). For every 100 grams, dark chocolate has 13,120 ORACs, and blueberries have only 2,400.
Antioxidant-rich diets have been linked to a lowered risk of heart attacks, stroke, cardiovascular disease, cancer, high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, arthritis, asthma, Alzheimer’s and more. So it stands to reason that if chocolate is chock full of antioxidants, it’s actually good for you.
It really does depend on what kind of chocolate we’re talking about. Snickers bars don’t count! The “bad” stuff in chocolate candy is the sugar and extra stuff. It is true that cocoa butter, the main source of fat (besides milk) in chocolate, is composed of both saturated and unsaturated fats, but the majority of that is in the form of oleic and stearic acids, which we already know have been proven to lower cholesterol levels. And the “bad fat” in chocolate (maybe 25%) is counteracted by the amount of good fat. Just remember, the darker the chocolate, the less room there is for things like cocoa butter, and the more room for that healthy antioxidant-packed cocoa.
There are some other great things about chocolate, like its magnesium–a crucial element in which most all of us are deficient. And also its phenylethylamine (the same stimulant that is released in the brain when people fall in love — now you know why you love chocolate!) which releases feel-good chemicals, serotonin and endorphins.
Avoid carob and white chocolate, Hershey’s and Mars (additives and other not-good-for you stuff) and stick with organic dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa solids. Oh, and you don’t need to mainline it to get the benefits — studies show that just a little, even just once a week, does the trick!