By Yuki Ariga, FSHN 451, Student of Community Nutrition Class taught by Dr. Jinan Banna, University Hawaii, Manoa

Smooth, melt in the mouth, luxurious, silky, heavenly, perfect with a cup of tea, fruit and nuts, roasted hazelnuts…yes, it’s chocolate. Common sense tells us that sweets full of calories are a bad thing if over consumed. However, a surprising number of studies have found health benefits from dark chocolate. Plants naturally produce substances called phytochemicals, and the flavonols are one of many groups of phytochemicals. Some scientists identified an inverse correlation between dietary intake of flavonols and the incidence of diabetes.

Luckily, chocolate is one of the foods that contain flavonoids, and many chocolate studies have shown that flavonoids in cocoa plants may improve insulin resistance, prevent cardiovascular disease, and may be useful in slowing the progression to type 2 diabetes and improve insulin resistance in people with metabolic syndrome. Here is another reason a little bit of dark chocolate can be healthful. Flavanols have been shown to lower blood pressure and make your heart, veins, and arteries work better, that means it’s good for your heart health!

As we might already know from our experiences, chocolate can improve your mood, especially in high-pressure or stressful situations. Some scientists suggest consuming less than 6 servings per week (equal to about 5 oz; Hershey’s block chocolate is about 4.4 oz), might be optimal for preventing those diseases. So, go ahead and reward yourself with guilt-free chocolate, and let those flavonols promote good health at the same time.

References

Can Chocolate Be Good For You? American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/can-chocolate-be-good-for-you.html. Accessed April 23, 2018.

Martín MÁ, Ramos S. Health beneficial effects of cocoa phenolic compounds: a mini-review. Current Opinion in Food Science. 2017;14:20-25. doi:10.1016/j.cofs.2016.12.002.

Shah SR, Alweis R, Najim NI, et al. Use of dark chocolate for diabetic patients: a review of the literature and current evidence. Journal of Community Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives. 2017;7(4):218-221. doi:10.1080/20009666.2017.1361293.

Yuan S, Li X, Jin Y, Lu J. Chocolate Consumption and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies. Nutrients. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/9/7/688/htm. Published July 2, 2017. Accessed April 3, 2018.

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