28 Nov Is Dark Chocolate Really a Healthier Alternative?
We have all heard it right? Is dark chocolate really a healthier alternative to milk chocolate?
The token Doctor or health specialist on the evening news or breakfast show talking up the benefits of Dark chocolate.
If you have a few squares a day you will help prevent heart disease, help fight cancer, lower your risk of type 2 diabetes and gain super hero powers.
Well maybe not the last one, but it seems that dark chocolate is the answer to all our prayers for longevity and health, or is it ?
On the face of it, it would appear that all the signs point to Dark Chocolate being the healthier option with a number of factors such as less sugar, much more fiber, higher levels of iron and the big one we always hear, higher levels of antioxidants. The graph below is a good summary of this and illustrates everything you have probably heard and possibly more about the comparison of Dark Vs Milk Chocolate.
In this article I am only going to focus on one of these factors though and that is Antioxidants.
For a long time the fact that Dark Chocolate is high in these has been the reason it has been lifted on its pedestal as the go to when looking for something sweet.
Warning, a little science ahead….
Oxidation is a technical name for a chemical process that we associate with something breaking down. There are many examples of this that occur in our everyday surroundings, from rust on an iron bar to the browning of a cut apple. Many of these oxidation reactions produce free radicals in our surroundings and in our bodies. This process is happening every second of every day inside our bodies, producing millions of free radical molecules to roam our body at their leisure.
These free radicals are considered the “bad” guys in our bodies as they have been linked to inflammation of our joints, acceleration of the ageing process, increased risk of heart disease and even some cancers. So it would seem that getting rid of these would aid in helping us stay healthy.
Antioxidants to the rescue !
Antioxidants scavenge free radicals from the body and prevent or limit the damage caused by oxidation.
Case solved, have more antioxidants and you will look younger, prevent heart disease and never get cancer… Hold up, not quite!
While many studies have shown that antioxidants can prevent damage to the cells within our body, the big problem is that cells in a lab don’t always act like the ones inside our bodies.
There is actually very little evidence to suggest that a diet high in antioxidants will result in a healthier human being, in fact there is some emerging research to suggest that having extra antioxidants in your body could have a negative effect, such as dampening our bodies’ ability to fight disease.
So what is the answer, eat lots of dark chocolate to fight disease or look a little deeper into the science and look at a balanced equation for the answers.
I suggest you use chocolate as it is supposed to be, as treats that indulges your naughty side and make you feel good, nothing more, nothing less.
Don’t buy into this notion that having Dark Chocolate every night will keep you looking young, prevent heart disease or put you at a lower risk of cancer.
Eating lots of Dark Chocolate is much more likely to see you become overweight and put you at a greater risk of Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease and some cancers than any health benefit you might have gotten from the consumption of that Dark Chocolate.
My take home message is this, enjoy chocolate for what it is, an enjoyable and delicious dark, buttery joyful block of goodness and not for being the cure to all of mankind’s chronic diseases.