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Antioxidants in Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate -- but not milk chocolate or dark chocolate eaten with milk -- is a potent antioxidant, report Mauro Serafini, PhD, of Italy's National Institute for Food and Nutrition Research in Rome, and colleagues. Their report appears in the Aug. 28 issue of Nature. Antioxidants gobble up free radicals, destructive molecules that are implicated in heart disease and other ailments.
"Our findings indicate that milk may interfere with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate ... and may therefore negate the potential health benefits that can be derived from eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate."
Translation: Say "Dark, please," when ordering at the chocolate counter. Don't even think of washing it down with milk. And if health is your excuse for eating chocolate, remember the word "moderate" as you nibble.
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What about all of the fat in chocolate?
You may be surprised to find out that chocolate isn’t as bad as once perceived. The fat in chocolate, from cocoa butter, is comprised of equal amounts of oleic acid (a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil), stearic and palmitic acids. Stearic and palmitic acids are forms of saturated fat. Saturated fats are linked to increases in LDL-cholesterol and risk for heart disease.
Research indicates that stearic acid appears to have a neutral effect on cholesterol, neither raising nor lowering it. Palmitic acid on the other hand, does affect cholesterol levels but only comprises one-third of the fat calories in chocolate.
This great news does not give us a license to consume as much dark chocolate as we’d like.
First, be cautious as to the type of dark chocolate you choose: chewy caramel-marshmallow-nut-covered dark chocolate is by no means a heart-healthy food option. What wreaks havoc on most chocolate products are the fat and calories that accompany other ingredients.
Second, there is currently no established serving size of chocolate to reap these cardiovascular benefits. However, what we do know is you no longer need to feel guilty if you enjoy a small piece of dark chocolate once in awhile.
More research in this area is needed to determine just how much chocolate we chocolate-lovers can eat in order to acquire cardioprotective benefits. Until that time, enjoy chocolate in moderate portions a few times per week. Don’t forget to eat other flavonoid-rich foods like apples, red wine, tea, onions and cranberries.
Be on the lookout for new and exciting research in this area.
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