#40 3 Surprising Health Benefits of Chocolate
HOST: Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Dr. Susan Mitchell
Guess how many pounds of chocolate the average American consumes yearly? Over 11. My girlfriend said she’d rather have chocolate than sex. Good thing her passion for chocolate comes with surprising health benefits and a melt-in-your-mouth flavor.
Chocolate’s always been popular for its taste and mouth feel. It’s been deemed the most craved food. Personally I never met a chocolate I don’t like…well, white chocolate but then technically, it’s not really chocolate.
The idea that dark chocolate is good for health is not new. Think about red wine and green tea. They are good for you because they contain compounds called flavonoids or naturally occurring plant substances which have health benefits.
Guess where these flavonoids are also found naturally? Cocoa beans and chocolate.
Chocolate benefit #1: these naturally found flavonoids in chocolate may improve blood flow, reduce blood pressure and lower lousy or LDL cholesterol.
Chocolate benefit #2: You’ve no doubt heard the word microbiome or in this case I’m referring your gut. It seems that beneficial microbes in your gut feed on chocolate, ferment it and produce anti-inflammatory compounds which may decrease inflammation of heart tissue and reduce long-term risk of stroke.
Chocolate is also a source of fiber. The undigested fiber in cocoa is broken down in the gut and can be combined with prebiotics to also produce anti-inflammatory compounds. The good news is that the number of healthy gut microbes increases and the less healthy microbes decrease.
Chocolate benefit #3: Dark chocolate also contains the beneficial minerals iron, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus.
Here’s where it becomes important for you to make smart decisions. You’ve had surgery but that changed didn’t change your brain nor the occasional desire or craving. So even after bariatric surgery when you’re back to eating regular food in smaller portions, you’ll likely have the occasional desire for chocolate. So what to do? Depends on you. If you skip the chocolate are you ok with that? If so, fabulous. Or do you feel you have denied yourself of something you really love? What happens if you continually deny this desire for chocolate? In my experience it’s not unusual to give in and eat way more than if you have allowed yourself that small piece when you wanted it. So back to making that smart choice. First, remember that added sugars and sugar alcohols can cause dumping syndrome. Everyone is different but for many, it doesn’t take much added sugar to start symptoms. The caveat here is that the benefits of chocolate can turn ugly by the addition of less healthy ingredients such as added sugars or sugar alcohols, trans fat or hydrogenated fat, and butter oil and coconut oil, both of which contain a lot of saturated fat. So it’s up to you to be the label sleuth and look at the Nutrition Facts label and closely read the ingredient list of different chocolate. The longer the ingredient list, the more likely it is that less-healthy items that have been added will take away from the cocoa’s or chocolate’s potential health benefits and potentially kick off dumping. Choosing a small piece of your favorite dark chocolate is the smartest way to go. You’ll get that fabulous flavor and mouth feel. Plus if you compare chocolates, you can find numerous good quality ones with few added ingredients you don’t need. Again, remember what can happen if you really want chocolate and deny yourself over and over. You’re likely to have a craving that results in eating a lot more chocolate than you need and probably chocolate with added ingredients you don’t want. Instead just allow yourself a small piece when you really want it. Yes give yourself permission to have it and enjoy it. N0 guilt. Then you control the portion, get the benefits and don’t end up overeating on chocolate filled with added ingredients you don’t need. And you keep dumping syndrome out of the picture as well.
Whether you prefer chocolate to sex or not, you can enjoy dark chocolate for it’s fabulous taste, reap the potential health benefits and work it into your eating plan by using these smart strategies.
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