We all love chocolate now and again, but most of us are told that this is a sin food, and should be avoided especially when dieting or trying to cut down on the body fat. Now we know that you have probably heard of the benefits of chocolate spread around in rumours etc.

So we really wanted to look at chocolate and see if there is any positives (besides taste) in having some and if so what type, when we should take it and what people may benefit from it. We also have to discuss the negative side as we want to be fair here at myInnerGo.

So first we will have to go through the three main types of chocolate out there and what these contain:

Type of chocolate

Total phenolics (mg/100g)

Flavonoids (mg/100g)

Dark chocolate (70% cocoa)

579

28

Milk chocolate

160

13

White chocolate

126

8


Now the more coco bean the darker the chocolate and this means there will be more phenolic and flavonoids. Dark chocolate is much less sweet then milk chocolate and there is very little alike between 90% dark chocolate and milk chocolate (30-40%) taste wise. What does this mean though?

Flavan-3-ol and flavonoids

Chocolate contains flavan-3-ol which is the most prevalent phenolic found within dark chocolate. Now this has been studied extensively for health benefits, one of which is its ability to protect our DNA, this especially true when combined with exercise, it has been found that flavan-3-ol can delay aging with less oxidative stress upon the mitochondria.

When it comes to chocolate however you have to be careful as many manufactures actually remove these substances to help with taste, you should find out before buying if these have been removed, we have found that chocolate above 70% cocoa normally has a good amount of these protecting substances. Now flavonoids are present in milk chocolate but the milk prevents proper absorption into the body, bad news for milk chocolate lovers.

Stimulants

Chocolate contains a whole bunch of stimulating substances, now this can be viewed as negative and positive, we will go through this after we look at what these substances are; anandamide, arginine, caffeine, methylated xanthines (theobromine, caffeine & theophylline), monoamine oxidase, oxalic acid, phenethylamine, phenylalanine, phytates, serotonin, sugar, tannin, theobromine, theophylline, tryptophan and finally tyramine.

So plenty of chemicals there, again these are found in higher amounts in darker chocolate, white chocolate contains the least due to the usage of cocoa butter instead of cocoa solids.

Now let us pick out some of the more physiologically active chemicals from the list and explain them in more detail:

Caffeine

Caffeine effects the central nervous system (CNS) by stimulating it, which helps prevent drowsiness by increasing alertness. Caffeine is found in many foods and drinks we consume making it the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world. In the UK 80% of adults consume caffeine on a daily basis and in the USA this stands at 90%. Caffeine stimulates the body and helps prevent physical fatigue, increases thinking processes and improves focus, the amount of caffeine needed to produce this depends on the person’s tolerance and size. For sports men and women caffeine in moderation has been shown to improve sprinting, endurance and performance focus, there has also been benefits in those training at high altitude. However large dosages are associated with a loss of co-ordination and rapid heart rate during exercise.

    In general chocolate does not contain enough caffeine to be harmful to the body, it would be very unlikely to be able to eat enough chocolate to get over the 1000mg of caffeine needed for it to become toxic. Most negative effects are caused by energy drinks etc.

    Theobromine

    One of the main mood elevators found in chocolate, it is also a vasodilator and helps with blood pressure. Theobromine is cited to be one of the reasons that chocolate is an aphrodisiac now that is a good reason to eat chocolate. Have you ever eaten dark chocolate when you have cough? Well if you have you may have wondered why your cough was better for a while, this is because theobromine has an antitussive (cough-reducing) effect that is superior to that of codeine. The negative effects of theobromine basically mimic the negatives of caffeine, however unlike caffeine it is possible that these will be more prevalent in eating chocolate as theobromine is mainly found in chocolate.

    Tryptophan

    Tryptophan is an amino acid and one of the 22 standard amino acids and is essential in the human diet. Tryptophan is a precursor of serotonin and as we know serotonin is our “happiness” hormone, tryptophan therefore has shown promising results in fighting depression. Tryptophan is found in plentiful amounts in both milk and dark chocolate but again more is found in the darker variety.

    Aphrodisiac Properties

    Now chocolate has long been associated with romance and lust, but is there any truth in this?

    Now most state that just the pleasure of eating chocolate helps reduce stress and therefore makes that person more likely to want to be “romanced”. However there is some research that actually shows that chocolate can cause arousal, tryptophan can cause happiness but methlyxanthine blocks adenosine, this blockage is directly linked to arousal. So fellas DON’T forget that box of chocolates on the first date, or any date for the matter.

    Cardiovascular System

    Cocoa has been shown to have antioxidant properties, it appears to be able to inhibit lipid oxidation within the arteries, and there is evidence to suggest that as chocolate causes dilation of the blood vessels it may bring down blood pressure. It was found that when smokers ate chocolate of 74% cocoa their blood flow through the heart significantly improved, in later tests it was discovered that this halved their risk of forming fatal blood clots. All the positive effects here are all from dark 70% or more chocolate.

    Migraine

    Evidence is slim on this subject, but research does show that dark chocolate intake enhances the expression of MAP kinase phosphatase (MKP) within the trigeminal ganglion, this positively effects the level of Calcitonin gene-related peptide which is an inflammatory chemical that is linked with certain migraines or headaches.

    So we have seen the positives, sadly most of the positives only come from dark chocolate (which is great if you like dark chocolate), milk chocolate sadly is the one that has most of the negatives which we will go through now:

    Weight Gain

    Chocolate is a very calorific food per gram and therefore will cause weight gain if not eaten in moderation, this is particularly true for milk chocolate. Because chocolate is high in both saturated fat and sugar, many nutritionists are wary of proclaiming its benefits, the saying that you can’t get can never have enough of a good thing is definitely not true in this case. The weight gain caused by chocolate like any non-lean weight gain can lead to obesity, heart problems and diabetes.

    Now we know that most say they are “chocoholics” and this may be a bit of fun and a joke, however due to the chemicals that make up chocolate it is entirely plausible that persons can get addicted to caffeine or/and theobromine found in chocolate. Chocolate is not entirely harmful as a compound however addiction will lead to unwanted weight gain and the negative effects associated.


    Acne

    We talked about this in the earlier article, chocolate may not cause acne, but as it is a high glycaemic food it may unintentionally worsen acne, caffeine has also been linked to acne.

    So we have gone through both aspects now, we know that dark chocolate has benefits but it is still high in calories and is not recommended in high quantities. We recommend that 30g of 70-90% chocolate taken three to four times a week at breakfast would be enough to give you the beneficial effects, help your sweet tooth for the rest of the day and not make you pile on the lbs. For a food so tasty to have so many great benefits is great, but moderation is key, and the darker the better.

    Does chocolate have an influence on our diet?
    The answer is yes, but it depends a lot on our genes. 40-70% of our body weight is affected by genes and because of that some people can eat a diet high in chocolate and carbohydrates, whilst others need to  follow specific portions and food intake. Want to find what works best for you? Head over to myInnerGo  and discover more about myInnerGo Weight.

     


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