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Foothill Magazine

The good and bad side benefits of chocolate

Health benefits come from cacao seeds
By: Paige Smith
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Valentine’s Day is here, and the chocolate is abundant in stores and wrapped in beautiful bows, ready to be gifted and consumed. The conversations can be heard throughout the office and in around town about the pros and cons of chocolate. Leaving people to wonder, what is the truth about chocolate? Where does it come from and how healthy is it really for us?

Marie Barone, registered dietitian from UC Davis Health gave us the scoop on the truth about chocolate some of which a chocolate lover might not want to hear.

“First, it’s important to note that health benefits are associated with cocoa, which comes from roasted cacao seeds,” Barone said. “Chocolate is made from cocoa with the cocoa butter also found in the cacao seed.”

However, it’s the additions that create this delicacy is what makes it unhealthy. Barone explained that the cacao seed already contains fat, when sugar and milk are added to it, this creates the chocolate to become higher in calories and fat and not as healthy.

Before getting too freaked out, there are still the health benefits to discuss. The health benefits of cocoa come from flavonoids, which are nutrients found in plant foods. 

“These flavonoids may be beneficial to heart health by lowering cholesterol, helping to prevent blood clots, and lowering blood pressure,” Barone said. She does add that cocoa may benefit the brain.

According to Barone, research shows that drinking cocoa improves memory and thinking, but does not prove that it prevents dementia.

The pros and cons of chocolate conclude that the most sayings about chocolate, are myths. The most common myths are that chocolate can be enjoyed a lot because it is good for us and dark chocolate is best. 

If chocolate is not consumed in moderation, weight gain, including diabetes and heart disease may occur.

“Watch out for chocolate candy bars and desserts which will have a lot of calories, fat and added sugar and low amounts of the beneficial flavonoids,” Barone advised.

If you are worried about calories and watching your intake on the chocolate this year, Barone suggests going for higher-end dark chocolate that has 70 percent or more cocoa solids, which provides more benefits. Like anything, if it is consumed within moderation there is not as much to worry about during this sweet holiday and year-round.