Why Dark Chocolate Is Healthy

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  1. Why Dark Chocolate Is Healthy

    I remember as a child, my parents warning me about the dangers of candy and chocolate.  For obvious reasons, anything loaded with sugar cannot be good for you.  But wait, what about the dark chocolates?  Are there any health benefits to eating this delicious candy? Does the good outweigh the bad?   If so, how much is too much?

    A little lesson on exactly what chocolate is:

    Chocolate is made from plants, which means it contains many of the health benefits of dark vegetables. These benefits are from flavonoids.   Flavonoids help protect plants from environmental toxins and help repair damage. They can be found in a variety of foods, such as fruits and vegetables. When we eat foods rich in flavonoids, it appears that we also benefit from this “antioxidant” power.   What are antioxidants?

    Antioxidants are believed to help the body’s cells resist damage caused by free radicals that are formed by normal bodily processes, such as breathing, and from environmental contaminants, like cigarette smoke. If your body does not have enough antioxidants to combat the amount of oxidation that occurs, it can become damaged by free radicals. For example, an increase in oxidation can cause low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as “bad” cholesterol, to form plaque on the artery walls.

    An interesting fact about this dark chocolate is that it contains nearly 8 times more antioxidants than the number found in strawberries.

    Flavanols are the main type of flavonoid found in cocoa and chocolate. In addition to having antioxidant qualities, research shows that flavanols have other potential influences on vascular health, such as lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and making blood platelets less sticky and able to clot.

    Heart Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate:

    Dark chocolate is good for your heart. A small bar of it every day can help keep your heart and cardiovascular system running well. Two heart health benefits of dark chocolate are:

    Lower Blood Pressure:  Studies have shown that consuming a small bar of dark chocolate everyday can reduce blood pressure in individuals with high blood pressure.

    Lower Cholesterol: Dark chocolate has also been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) by up to 10 percent.

    Other Benefits of Dark Chocolate:

    It tastes good

    It stimulates endorphin production, which gives a feeling of pleasure

    It contains serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant

    It contains theobromine, caffeine and other substances which are stimulants

    Doesn’t Chocolate Have a lot of Fat?

    Here is some more good news — some of the fats in chocolate do not impact your cholesterol. The fats in chocolate are 1/3 oleic acid, 1/3 stearic acid and 1/3 palmitic acid:

    Oleic Acid is a healthy monounsaturated fat that is also found in olive oil.

    Stearic Acid is a saturated fat but one which research is shows has a neutral effect on cholesterol.

    Palmitic Acid is also a saturated fat, one which raises cholesterol and heart disease risk.

    That means only 1/3 of the fat in dark chocolate is bad for you.

    Tips on eating chocolate:

    Chocolate Tip 1 – Balance the Calories:

    This information doesn’t mean that you should eat as much chocolate as you like. Chocolate is still a high-calorie, high-fat food. Most of the studies done used no more than 100 grams, or about 3.5 ounces, of dark chocolate a day to get the benefits.

    One bar of dark chocolate has around 400 calories. If you eat half a bar of chocolate a day, you must balance those 200 calories by eating less of something else. Cut out other sweets or snacks and replace them with chocolate to keep your total calories the same.  Remember it won’t take long to pile up 3500 extra calories which = a pound of fat.

    Chocolate Tip 2 – Go for Dark Chocolate not the white or milk chocolate:

    Dark chocolate has far more antioxidants than milk or white chocolate. These other two chocolates cannot make any health claims. Dark chocolate has 65 percent or higher cocoa content.

    Chocolate Tip 3 – Eat it plain, without caramel or nougat:

    You should look for pure dark chocolate or dark chocolate with nuts, orange peel or other flavorings. Avoid anything with caramel, nougat or other fillings. These fillings are just adding sugar and fat which erase many of the benefits you get from eating the chocolate.

    So enjoy your Valentine holiday and buy a bit of dark chocolate for your beloved!  You may be helping them lower their blood pressure and cholesterol!   Besides that, they are increasing those endorphin and serotonin levels – which can lead to a happier day or night!

    Sources: Chocolate Manufacturers Association; Journal of the American Medical Association


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  2. Low Fat Diets May Increase Cardiovascular Disease

    You have probably heard that you should eat a low fat diet, but there is evidence that if you replace that fat with carbohydrates that you may actually be increasing your risk for heart disease.

    Years ago the recommendation to reduce your saturated fat intake was because it was believed that consumption of saturated fat increased your risk for cardiovascular disease.  Further research has proven that to not necessarily be true and when you replace the fat with carbohydrates you increase your risk.At the 2010 American Dietetic Association’s Food and Nutrition Conference a symposium titled “The Great Fat Debate:  Is There Validity In The Age-Old Dietary Guidance?” four leading experts presented various evidence that consuming a low fat diet may be less healthy for you than those who consume a moderate fat intake.
    Dr. Alice Lichtenstein who is the director of the cardiovascular health laboratory at Tufts University states that this advice of consuming a low fat diet is based on an oversimplification of recommendations.
    She also states that the emphasis should be on replacing the saturated fat and Trans fats with unsaturated (healthier) fats.It is really the type of fat that is important here and evidence shows that if you replace saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat there is a reduction in risk according to Dr. Walter Willett the Chair of the Harvard School of Public Health’s nutrition department.Dr. Lewis Kuller professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health stated that we have done a great job of confusing the public and that the biggest problem in America is our eating behavior.

    I couldn’t agree with him more.  Our eating behavior is what drives most of our eating decisions and until we change our behaviors we will always have increasing health issues.

    Dr. Lichtenstein and Dr. Mozaffarian professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School both mentioned that we can’t just look at a single nutrient or biomarker in regards to disease reduction.

    When this happens you usually have one nutrient go down while another goes up and the same problem is still there.  Nothing is fixed because there are many nutrients and actions that increase your risk for cardiovascular disease.

    Remember this the next time you want to eliminate or become fearful of a single nutrient.  This isn’t always going to make things better.

    Instead focus on a balanced approach and change your eating behaviors for long term health.

    For more information, visit the American Dietetic Association website.
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Your Personal Best Training Studio
Doddridge Plaza
3765 S. Alameda, Ste 102
Corpus Christi, TX 78411
(361) 857-5087 info@ypbtrainingstudio.com