Chocolate: Is it Good For Us?

Most of us will agree that chocolate is incredibly delicious and a favorite treat. But whether chocolate (or raw cacao) is good for us is a question many experts have yet to agree on. Some say it is the best food ever -- chock full of antioxidants, magnesium, and other great nutrients -- giving it a place high on the ladder of the ultimate super foods list. On the flip side, opponents say chocolate is addictive and contains chemicals, contaminants, additives and poisons that should keep this substance out of our diet entirely. So what is the answer to the question of whether chocolate is healthy or not? Here are some things to consider:

Pros:
  • Rich in Antioxidants: Cornell University food scientists found that cocoa powder has nearly twice the antioxidants of red wine and up to three times what is found in green tea.
  • Rich in Magnesium: Which is good for our Heart and Circulatory system.
  • Aphrodisiac: This is definitely a bonus!
  • Decreases the appetite in some people: Helps people manage their weight.
  • High in serotonin and dopamine: This helps us feel happy and combats depression.
  • Contains flavanols: This helps the blood flow smoothly, essential in keeping blood platelets from sticking together.
  • Contains high fiber and iron: These are both beneficial to the body.

Cons:
  • Chocolate/Cacao contains chemicals, additives and contaminants (1)
  • Some negative Chemicals are (2):
  • Theobromine: known to cause a host of symptoms including abnormal glandular growth, nervousness, depression, anxiety, insomnia, gastrointestinal problems, and itching.
  • Caffeine: highly suspected of being a carcinogen, and is directly linked to heart and circulatory problems, glandular difficulties, nervous disorders, osteoporosis, birthing abnormalities, and so forth.
  • Theophylline: causes stomach problems, nausea, vomiting, and nervous disorders.
  • It acts as a stimulant and agitates the kidneys and adrenal glands: This can cause: insomnia, nightmares, waking up in the middle of the night, shakes, and extreme energy shifts.(3)
  • It can be addictive.
  • It might cause allergic reactions.
  • It can come with unhealthy baggage. Look at the other ingredients alongside your favorite chocolate treat if it isn't plain and simple raw cacao nibs or pieces. Many chocolate treats have dairy, sugar and a lot of other additives that you might have a negative reaction to. Sometimes the chocolate isn't what is bothering people, it's all the other stuff.

Tips on Eating Chocolate:
With that said, here are some tips to consider when you decide if you should keep chocolate in your diet.

Remember: “One person’s panacea is another person’s poison” – listen to your body and its response to eating it. If you have adverse reactions (such as migraines, headaches, anxiety, insomnia, increased heart-rate, gastro-intestinal problems, rash, itching, hives, or anything else) avoid consuming chocolate and/or cacao. Instead, you can replace it with something that resembles chocolate, a food called carob. Carob is made from a fruit, with a resemblance of the chocolate taste. Instead of being a stimulant, this mineral rich food actually has a calming effect.

If you don't have adverse reactions to chocolate, eat it in its most natural form, raw cacao nibs or powder. Or at least aim for eating dark chocolate with a small ingredient list. Don’t eat it in large quantities or on a daily basis. Eat your chocolate in moderation -- as the treat it deserves to be -- and enjoy it immensely!
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(1) FDA Defect Levels Handbook: http://www.fda.gov/food/guidancecomplianceregulatoryinformation/guidancedocuments/sanitation/ucm056174.htm
(2) Ty Stanley, Diet by Design: Fruits, Nuts and Natural Foods (New York, Teach Services, December 1998) and http://www.rawlife.com/store/pages.php?pageid=3
(3) Ibid