Do we have a health related excuse to eat chocolate?!
Cocoa is high in this thing called flavonoids, which are these pretty awesome antioxidants found in plants. Other things high in flavonoids include wine, tea, fruits and berries.
Flavonoids have cardioprotective effects.
Essentially, the chemical structure of flavonoids allows it to mop up free radicals- which is basically the bane of our life and is what causes damage to our body, making us age and die.
Here are a few dot point summaries of some research findings:
- Rats that had diets of 2% cocoa powder had less DNA damage and glutathione (one of our own body’s antioxidant molecules) damage
- Rats that had diabetes had less cataracts when taking cocoa
- In humans, eating flavonoid rich chocolate increased antioxidant capacity of their blood
- In humans, LDL (bad fats that float around in our blood and decide to destroy our blood vessels and kill us by clogging up our vessels) related damage was inhibited after consuming flavonoid rich cocoa
- In humans, cocoa intake increased nitric oxide availability in our blood vessels, which has nice relaxing effects. This reduces blood pressure, and can prevent clots.
However, a lot of these are single studies and alone they don’t provide great evidence (rats are kinda like humans, but not really). I went to Cochrane Reviews (which is a huge database of reviews that scrutinises other scientific articles to tell you whether something has enough evidence to safely say “yeah, that is legit”). There’s not too much out there which means we have to wait until more and more studies come out. But in one review, they looked at 20 studies that involved 856 health participants all together. They found that there was a small, but statistically significant drop in blood pressure ( -2.8 mm Hg systolic and -2.2 mm Hg diastolic) with taking cocoa.
Not all these studies were well designed, most of them were quite short, and they didn’t use that nice milk cadbury chocolate that we love
Where does that leave us?
- The flavonoids in cocoa are awesome antioxidants, which are theoretically good for us, but we don’t have the long-term evidence to say that eating it will lower our chance of a heart attack.
- Chocolate on the market has varying concentrations of flavonoids. Depending on harvesting and processing, as much as 90% of the flavonoids can be lost.
- White chocolate is crap. Don’t eat it. It has the crappy fats and sugars and none of the antioxidants.
- Dark chocolate is your best bet, get the really high concentration dark chocolate.
- Moderation. If you eat too much, you’ll get fat. And being fat is one of the biggest risk factors for cardiovascular events