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Dark Chocolate is Healthy!!!!!

Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health posted a notable paper which gives the go-ahead to dark chocolate eating. (My best day ever!) Why? Extensive research by credible sources with interesting, positive results.

They report that cocoa is rich in plant chemicals called flavanols that may help to protect the heart. Flavanols have been shown to support the production of nitric oxide in the inner cell lining of blood vessels that helps to relax the blood vessels and improve blood flow, thereby lowering blood pressure. Flavanols in chocolate can increase insulin sensitivity in short term studies; in the long run this could reduce risk of diabetes.

Here’s a great case study: an Indian tribe in Panama, the Kuna, have a high intake of cocoa powder (typically, 5 cups daily). High blood pressure was extremely uncommon in this group, young and old. By the way, their salt intake is greater than most Western populations. But, take the Kuna out of their natural environment and move them to an urban area in which their diets changed, and their rates of high blood pressure increased. And take note of this: the urinary levels of flavanols in the tribe members in the natural environment of the Kuna were significantly higher and their rates of death from heart disease, cancer, and diabetes significantly lower than their counterparts living in urban centers.

Other observational studies suggest a link between high cocoa or chocolate intake of 6 grams daily (1-2 small squares) and a reduced risk of heart disease and mortality, possibly in part by reducing blood pressure and inflammation.

You need to know: dark chocolate is high in calories (150-170 calories per ounce) and can contribute to weight gain if eaten in excess. However, chocolate, like nuts can induce satiety, so the longer term implications for weight control are not clear. It also contains a moderate amount of saturated fat, which can negatively affect blood lipid levels, though its heart-protective effects from flavanols appear to outweigh the risk. It is also rich in iron, copper, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus.

The report finishes with this green-light statement: Choosing dark chocolate and eating modest quantities may offer the greatest health benefits. YIPEE!!

Tips:

  • Buy quality dark chocolate that has a cocoa content of 70% or greater.
  • Eat the equivalent of a mini-candy bar daily (1-2 small squares) daily
  • Shy away from white or milk chocolate – unfortunately, they’re not much more than empty calories

I am hopeful that a Gummy-Bear study will be released soon. I’ll keep you posted!

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