Café Chocolate Lititz : Chocolate
The sweetest thing you'll hear today
Dietitians conclude that chocolate is good for you. In moderate amounts, of course.
By ANNE MCILROY, Science Reporter, The Globe and Mail
January 31, 2003
It is no longer a guilty pleasure. Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, contains enough minerals and other healthy compounds that a group of U.S. dietitians says doctors can recommend it to their patients as part of a healthy diet.
Chocolate is a good source of magnesium, potassium, copper and calcium. Even better, it contains healthy amounts of flavonoids, so-called phytochemicals that scientists believe may protect against heart disease and other illnesses, says the paper published in the latest edition of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. It reviews recent studies and comes to a conclusion that chocolate lovers may want to tape to their cupboard door.
"Multiple components in chocolate, particularly flavonoids, can contribute to the complex interplay of nutrition and health," the paper says.
It recommends that health professionals encourage people to consume "a wide range of phytochemical-rich foods, which can include dark chocolate in moderate amounts."
"I'll be lining up for that prescription," Jill Dillon said during a quick dart into an Ottawa store to buy a box of chocolates she insisted was for somebody else. She said she feels guilty about chocolate only if she eats too much.
The study does not define what is a moderate amount of chocolate, but describes the benefits of one serving, which is 44 grams or the equivalent of a regular chocolate bar.
It says more studies are needed because there is not adequate information available to recommended the amount of flavonoid-rich foods that an individual should consume on a daily basis, leaving it up to people to use their own judgment about how much should be part of a varied diet.
Because chocolate is high in calories, how much an individual eats depends upon what else is in the diet.
North Americans tend to see chocolate as empty calories, but for centuries, Europeans thought of it as a health food, praising its dietary and healing properties as far back as the 17th century, Althea Zanecosky, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, says.
New research suggests they were on to something. Cocoa powder is particularly rich in flavan-3-ols, flavonoids that are associated with a decreased risk of heart disease.
Scientists believe they act as antioxidants, reducing the risk of heart disease and protecting against potentially deadly blood clots.
They may also have anti-inflammatory properties. Cocoa powder, by weight, is up to 10 per cent flavonoids. Dark chocolate has more cocoa powder than light, so often contains more of the chemicals. Chocolate is surprisingly rich in minerals. A typical serving of milk chocolate can provide 8 per cent of the daily recommended amount of magnesium.
It also has copper, a trace element necessary for making chemicals in the brain, and calcium. There is about the same amount of potassium -- essential for good health -- in a serving of dark or milk chocolate as in an apple.
The dietitians make it clear they aren't advocating a meal plan built around fat-rich chocolate. But they say it can be part of a healthy diet that is rich in minerals, phytochemicals and other nutrients.
But it was news that gladdened the heart of Isabelle St. Denis, a 20-year-old who works in a chocolate store and eats bags of the stuff at a time.
She describes chocolate as a sugary kiss she can't live without.
"I like chocolate, and now it is good for me."
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