Craving Chocolate?

Craving chocolate?

Recently dark chocolate has become popular with the view that it is healthy. But is it really? What are the health benefits?

The view of “dark chocolate is healthy” comes from some studies indicating the cocoa, the bean chocolate is made from, is high in polyphenols. Polyphenols are compounds found in many superfoods which are powerful antioxidants and thereby have a positive effect on our bodies allowing cells to function efficiently and create more energy. Although the cocoa bean is high in these powerhouse compounds of goodness unfortunately a lot of it is lost in the fermentation, roasting and ‘dutching’ processes plus the addition of sugar, dairy and other ingredients that make the end product of chocolate palatable.

After the cocoa bean has been fermented and roasted it goes through a cracking process. This is basically the edible part of the bean being broken to smaller pieces for further processing. The result is cocoa nibs. Nibs have become wildly popular as they are still relatively high in polyphenols (equalling goodness!). However, they are still quite bitter and therefore are alkalised (dutching) to reduce the bitterness and then added to the other ingredients for the end product of chocolate. It is the addition of sugar and dairy (fats) that really decrease the nutritional value of chocolate, but it makes it taste so yummy!

Why are polyphenols from cocoa so good?

It’s all well and dandy to say polyphenols from cocoa is a super anti-oxidant; but they do a lot more!

Cocoa polyphenols support the liver mediating the signalling for energy to be stored as fat and get fat out of storage to burn for energy; and also aids in the synthesis of high density lipoproteins (HDL – the good cholesterol). Furthermore, studies have shown that cocoa polyphenols help increase our good cholesterol and decrease the low density lipoproteins (LDL – the bad cholesterol). This is really important as although the common focus is on LDL, HDL is often too low and thus the ratio is out of beneficial proportions. Therefore, increasing HDL cholesterol is often a benefit especially if the LDL is decreasing at the same time.

Cocoa polyphenols also help the little battery packs of our cells (called mitochondria) to produce efficient energy, reduces inflammation and on a broader scale also helps reduce hypertension (high blood pressure).

Cocoa polyphenols also have a role to play in improving insulin response to high blood sugar levels. That is, for the pre-diabetic state of insulin resistance these little packs of goodness help to reduce that sensitivity and slow down the road to a full diabetic state. Good news? Definitely! However, it is good to remind ourselves that is the cocoa, not the cocoa in the presence of sugar and fats as found in chocolate.

How can we make use of the cocoa benefits?

Although cocoa has many benefits most of these benefits are lost through the processes to become chocolate and what is left is often negated by the other ingredients in chocolate. So sorry chocolate lovers… you still need to exercise some discernment.

Good news is cocoa can be added to shakes which can give the chocolate flavour. It is worth noting that depending on the individual’s current state of health up to 12 g of cocoa maybe required per day. That’s a lot! So often the best way to receive a therapeutic dose is through supplementation. That way larger doses are possible and by-passing the bitter taste of cocoa.

We have two products available to us which contain cocoa polyphenols in bumper amounts. Thermo Burn is formulated to help support weight management. Whilst the Resist-X is formulated to support stabilising blood glucose levels thereby decreasing the propensity of insulin resistance leading to diabetes. Both products are particularly useful in aspects of weight management. However it is important to ensure the product you take is right for you at that specific time (this is where a naturopath who does kinesiology is valuable). Meanwhile, next time you have a chocolate craving consider including cocoa in your morning shakes.

Georgia Kilpatrick

BHSc (Nat)

Naturopath, Kinesiologist

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