Dark Chocolate – Friend or Foe?
Chocolate: just the word can make you smile! Chocolate is one of my favourite foods. Not only because it’s indulgent and tasty, but also because if chosen properly, it is nutritious. Sweets are often given a bad rap and rightfully so in most cases but there are some health benefits to dark chocolate in particular.
But what is in chocolate that makes it healthy for us? The answer is flavanols.
Flavanols have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are one of your body’s first lines of defense in protecting itself from damage on a cellular level. In addition to this, flavanols show potential in improving vascular health by lowering blood pressure and affecting blood flow to the brain and heart. Flavanols are found in the cacao component of chocolate.
Milk, white, dark?
Are all types of chocolate healthy? No, not all chocolate is created equal: the higher the cacao percentage, the better. Choose chocolates that have a cacao concentration at 60-70% or higher. The first ingredient should be cacao butter or cacao liquor. Added sugar should be further down the ingredient list. If you are choosing chocolate whose main ingredient is sugar, its nutritional value is depleted. The closer your chocolate is to its natural, raw state, the more nutritional punch it packs. Cacao is fairly bitter, so in order to make it more palatable, it is often sweetened and some of the flavanols removed during processing. But it is important to remember that the flavanols are one of the key components that make chocolate nutritious.
There are so many great shops around Ottawa to pick up delicious chocolate while supporting out local economy. Stubbe Chocolate and Cylie Artisans Chocolatier in the Byward Market, and Humming Bird Chocolate, located in Almonte, are 3 great local stores to purchase your Easter chocolate bunnies.
The Darker Side of Chocolate
There are 3 points to keep in mind before increasing your chocolate intake:
- Dark chocolate does contain caffeine. If you are caffeine sensitive, it may be best to limit the amount of chocolate you ingest especially right before bedtime.
- Dark chocolate contains a compound called tyramine, which can be a migraine trigger for some migraine sufferers. You can read more on how chiropractic care and massage therapy can be of benefit to headache and migraine sufferers here.
- If you suffer from kidney stones, be mindful that chocolate contains oxalates, which can contribute to the formation of some types of kidney stones. This would be of concern to people who have experienced kidney stones in the past or for people who are prone to forming them.
For more information on the health benefits of chocolate, The University of Michigan’s Integrative Medicine Department has some great resources.
Next time you eat a piece of dark chocolate; you may not need to feel as guilty over it. Remember, moderation is key. Keep it a treat! Anything in excess, even delicious, dark chocolate is not good for your health.