What puts chocolate on the list of health enhancing, anti-aging foods is its’ high content of powerful antioxidant compounds called flavonoids. Other flavonoid-rich foods are tea, berries, grapes, apples and many of the other color filled fruits and vegetables.
The flavonoids in chocolate are called flavonols and have been shown to be helpful in lowering blood pressure, diminishing fatty plaques in arteries, and lowering clot formation by making blood platelets not so sticky. Most people know that the darker the chocolate, the higher the flavonol content.
The brain lifting compounds in chocolate are theobromine, caffeine, tyramine, and phenylethylamine (PEA). Additionally, tryptophan and anandamide are soothing and relaxing to the brain and promote the feeling of well-being. How can you not love chocolate when it gives you a dose of energy, clears your foggy brain, soothes your anxiety and dampens your pain all the while keeping your healthy cells healthy and blood flowing smoothly for fewer negative cardiovascular events?
Well, that’s the good news-and now, the bad news…..
Even though there have been 2 large epidemiological studies showing the benefits of chocolate consumption specifically on lowering carotid artery plaques, blood pressure and other vascular problems, these studies were not well designed for clear and specific correlation about cause and effect from chocolate. Other flavonoid rich foods were being consumed simultaneously and chocolate contains additional health benefitting nutrients that obviously were not isolated from the flavonols.
Because chocolate has such a brain energizing effect, individuals with any chronic fatigue syndrome or adrenal exhaustion will be particularly drawn to consuming it, but cocoa, in addition to other caffeine containing stimulants should actually be avoided in this case. The same PEA in chocolate that lifts brain energy also creates a transient rise in blood pressure and blood sugar which is followed by a not good for you low blood sugar episode. If you have any kind of persistent or recurring fatigue issues, you need to support and nourish your brain to allow it to heal, avoid high glycemic reaction foods like chocolate and take in more energy sustaining proteins. Other conditions that can involve poor brain endurance and fatigue and should omit chocolate include Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Closed Head Injuries and even Post Polio Syndrome.
Chocolate has been placed on the list of offending foods by many different researchers involved with migraines headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, allergies, joint degeneration, skin problems such as rosacea and mood disorders. Chocolate is also high in oxalates and most people who have suffered from kidney stones should be on a low oxalate diet which means no chocolate. Oxalates are also famous for binding calcium which prevents its absorption and a diet high in oxalates is not recommended for anyone trying to maintain or improve their bone density. If you have any bladder irritation or particularly have been diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis (IC), chocolate should definitely be off of your grocery list. Anecdotally, there are groups of people who comment that chocolate weakens their immune system. They notice that they get sick soon after consuming even a small amount of it.
Despite chocolate truly having a high ORAC value (high antioxidant power), this healthy cell preserving ability is greatly diminished from processing, which is why it is best to eat high percentage pure dark chocolate and even better cacao in its raw form. Most of the chocolate consumed in the US is highly processed and can even include health stripping preservatives. It is pretty clear that chocolate does contain compounds that are health promoting, even the pharmaceutical companies are trying to isolate them, however, any benefits from flavonoids are totally drowned out when chocolate comes in the form of cake, caramel, ice cream, corn syrup and gooey candy bars. These foods do not count as healthy chocolate products.
So, you can hear the good part about chocolate, it is real, however, I’m hoping you can hear the negative aspects about chocolate as well and that it may not be a healthy food choice for you depending on the status of your health.