Most of us love chocolate anytime of the year, but Valentine’s Day seems the perfect excuse to enjoy. Just walk into grocery store, and chocolate is wrapped up and ready to give.
Is dark chocolate really good for you? Do the flavonoids in chocolate really help you?
Chocolate or cocoa powder does have flavonoids. The cocoa bean is a rich source of flavanols which are a group of phytochemicals in food. They reports suggest these flavonoids have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which may improve blood flow. Some research studies indicate lowering blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels and insulin sensitivity. A study with older adults improved cognitive function. Sorry, but chocolate does not help you lose weight. Studies show the more chocolate you eat the more weight you gain.
The amount of flavonoids available in our chocolate piece depends on how the cocoa bean is processed. Dutch processing reduces the flavonoids content. Dutch processing also reduces bitterness and darken color, which provides a sweeter taste. When looking at the label look for “alkalized,” “processed with alkali,” or “European style” on packages or ingredients lists as these ways assure more flavonoids are available. Thus, it is not always easy to know how much benefit is in that chocolate piece, especially if they don’t provide the method of processing the cocoa bean.
Absorption by your body and using the flavonoids can vary widely from person to person depending on your personal gut bacteria makeup.
In 2017 Consumer Lab found another concern with nearly all the cocoa powder they tested. It was high in cadmium which has the potential to damage kidney and weaken bones with just one serving if consumed regularly. Another concern can be the caffeine in chocolate. Research cautions people prone to migraines as natural chemicals in cocoa can increase migraine frequency.
Chocolate can provide some flavonoids possibly improving our health. However, there are some concerns. You can still enjoy eating chocolate but eat it in moderation.
Pick the type you enjoy but make it a treat rather than a food you eat every day. Enjoy flavonoids from other sources which are found in tea, grapes, berries, apples and red wine.
Pat Brinkman is the Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator for Ohio State University Fayette County.