Busting chocolate health myths

What you think you know about the sweet treat and how bad it is for you may be wrong

As he prepares for his fifth annual Chocolate Ball, “Disco Decadence” to be held Oct. 22 at the Palais Royale in Toronto, local events producer and chocolate entrepreneur Joey Cee takes a few moments to dispel some of the health myths surrounding chocolate, also sharing some recent health findings about consuming the sweet treat.

We once believed that something that tastes so good can’t be good for your health. However, lately there’s been a lot of talk about the health benefits of chocolate, particularly the antioxidant properties of dark chocolate. And in recent years science has weighed in on the subject, causing the old myths about chocolate and health to crumble to the joy of chocaholics worldwide.

1 Cholesterol
The American Heart Association recommends that daily cholesterol intake not exceed 300 mg. A chocolate bar is actually low in cholesterol. A 47 g bar contains only 12 mg of cholesterol. A 28 g piece of cheddar cheese contains 30 mg of cholesterol — more than double the amount found in a chocolate bar.

2 Sodium
According to the American National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, the maximum Recommended Daily Allowance for sodium is 1,100 to 3,300 mg daily. A 43 g milk chocolate bar contains 41 mg, while the same size dark chocolate bar contains only 5 mg. On the other hand, a 43 g serving of iced devil’s food cake has a whopping 241 mg — many times more than chocolate bars.

3 Fat
Health professionals and nutritionists suggest that calories from fat should account for no more than 30 percent of your daily caloric intake. A 43 g milk chocolate bar contains 13 g of fat; a dark chocolate bar of the same weight contains 12.

4 Blood Pressure
According to a new study by the University of Adelaide in Australia, a daily bar-sized indulgence of flavonol-rich dark chocolate could reduce blood pressure and improve insulin resistance.

5 Dental
Although chocolate contains fermentable carbohydrates, which can cause cavities, a number of dental research studies suggest that chocolate may be less apt to promote tooth decay than has been traditionally believed.

Research at the Forsyth Dental Center in Boston has shown that chocolate has the ability to offset the acid-producing potential of the sugar it contains. (Acid, produced by certain oral bacteria that digest, or ferment, sugars, may damage tooth enamel and cause decay).

In a study conducted at the Eastman Dental Center, certain chocolate products tested were found to be among the snack foods contributing least to tooth decay. The researchers reported that milk chocolate’s protein, calcium and phosphate content may provide protect tooth enamel.

6 Weight Control
Contrary to popular stereotype, most overweight people do not eat excessive amounts of cake, cookies, confections or other foods containing sugar. Their sugar intake tends, in fact, to be below average.

Many people overestimate the calories in chocolate. A 43 g milk chocolate bar contains approximately 220 calories, low enough to incorporate into a weight control diet. The occasional chocolate confection may also reduce the possibility of severe bingeing, which can occur as a result of feeling deprived of highly satisfying foods such as chocolate.

7 Caffeine
One popular myth is that chocolate is high in caffeine. But the amount of caffeine ingested when people eat chocolate in normal quantities is very small. A 28 g serving of milk chocolate, for example, contains 6 mg of caffeine, little more than the amount found in a cup of decaffeinated coffee.

Moreover, there have been no reports in the scientific literature of any health problems among children or adults as a result of the caffeine consumed in chocolate.

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Posted: Nov 2 2010 5:35 pm
Filed in: Health & Wellness
Edition: Toronto