Real Chocolate is Actively Good for You

Appears in

Real Chocolate: Over 50 Inspiring Recipes for Chocolate Indulgence

Real Chocolate

By Chantal Coady

Published 2003

Among the purposes of this book is to give real chocolate a positive image and to allow everyone to feel good about eating and enjoying it. It is one of the most nutritious and easily digested foods known. It contains a multitude of vitamins (A1, B1, B2, C, D and E), minerals (calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, chromium and phosphorous) and complex alkaloids, all of which enhance health and well-being. The iron in chocolate also comes in a form 93 per cent useable by the body, the oxalic acid helping bond the iron and calcium so it is bio-available.

Real chocolate is low in sugar and has a low glycaemic index, meaning it keeps you feeling full for longer and helps keep your blood glucose levels steady. The glycaemic index of chocolate is 49 (45 for milk chocolate) and anything under 50 is considered low; crisps, biscuits, white bread and other refined carbohydrates have a high glycaemic index. There is strong evidence that replacing desserts with good chocolate can actually help weight loss and diabetes (see A Chocolate a Day Keeps the Doctor Away by Dr John Ashton and Suzy Ashton, Souvenir Press, London 2002).

There is a naturally occurring antidepressant in chocolate called phenylethylamine (PEA) which increases the serotonin levels in the brain. It can induce a euphoric state, as well as boosting energy levels and mental alertness. PEAs are found in โ€˜love addictedโ€™ women. Low PEA levels are found in people who are depressed. Chocolate affects the hormones in the brain in a similar way to morphine, and so can relieve pain. Prozac is the man-made chemical used to treat depression by raising serotonin levels; it also has many well-documented side effects and is highly addictive. Real chocolate, however, acts as an instant antidepressant. Even its smell can have a calming effect on the brain. Chocolate also contains theobromine and valeric acid. The former is a stimulant similar to caffeine, with a chemical composition that has only one atom different but is weaker in its action. It stimulates the brain, muscles and central nervous system, and has also been shown to lower blood pressure.

Chocolate is also rich in flavinoids (also found in red wine) and other chemical compounds known to reduce the likelihood of deep vein thrombosis and strokes. Although red wine is excellent in moderate amounts, alcohol can be dangerous, but I have never heard of anyone being killed by eating real chocolate. Cocoa butter has been proven to lower blood cholesterol levels, and chocolate is rich in antioxidants, which help to destroy the unhealthy free radicals and boost the immune system, two of the most important factors in preventing cancer.

Chocolate is even used as a homeopathic remedy, indicated for feelings of hostility, especially when mothers feel anger and frustration towards their offspring. The effect is to restore the nurturing mother side, and to promote a general sense of well-being. (Interestingly, one theory why we love chocolate so much from an early age is that in many respects white chocolate is the closest thing to human breast milk.) The other surprising finding is that cocoa possesses antibacterial properties, which help to prevent tooth decay. It seems that most dentists are agreed that even chocolate containing sugar is significantly less harmful than sweets (like lollipops or boiled sweets) in relation to dental caries.

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