Saturday, 2 July 2011

Guest post #3 - Chocolate!

I'm off on my holidays this week, so while I'm away I've lined up an interesting guest post for you about chocolate - my mouth is watering!

Brighton C x

 
When people think about chocolate, they usually associate it with being unhealthy.  It’s filled with fat and sugar, is hard to put down and contains caffeine.  But is it really that bad for us?  Or could it possibly be the one of the healthiest dessert choices you could ever make? 

Most of the time, when we hear the word“chocolate,” we think of regular milk chocolate.  Hershey bars, Twix, Reese’s, Milky Way are popular treats made with milk chocolate.  Although these tasty treats are harmless if eaten in moderation, that usually isn’t the case.  Chocolate contains addictive properties because of the added sugar and caffeine, so we end up eating more than we planned.  The substances in chocolate can cause problems ranging from migraines to heart attacks, more the reason to avoid it.  The fat in milk chocolate comes from mainly saturated fat, the kind we need to avoid to maintain healthy hearts.  Consuming only three ounces of chocolate can put you over the daily recommended limit for saturated fat, one huge disadvantage.  Milk chocolate does not contain as many antioxidants as dark chocolate.  Because of this, the calories you eat from milk chocolate are empty.  They might make you feel good, but provide no nutritional benefit.

On the other hand, dark chocolate, a less popular, more antioxidant rich type can actually benefit your health in more than one way.  First of all, it contains antioxidants such as polyphenols that help to protect against heart disease.  They inhibit oxidation of LDL cholesterol so it cannot stick to artery walls.  They also prevent blood platelets from clumping together and causing atherosclerosis.  High blood pressure can also be reduced by polyphenols.  Studies have shown that chocolate can act as a blood thinner, similar to the actions of aspirin.  Although the fat content in dark chocolate is still high, these fats are actually beneficial.  The form of saturated fat, called stearic acid, has been shown to not increase blood cholesterol levels.  Instead, it acts more like monounsaturated fat which is important for body functions.  Other antioxidants that dark chocolates possess are flavanoids.  These beneficial substances are also good for the heart and protect against cancer causing free radicals.

Dark chocolate causes the brain to release “feel good” chemicals called endorphins and dopamine.  It also causes the release of serotonin, a chemical that reduces depression.  These facts  are the reasons why chocolate can be addictive.  Don’t worry, though.  If you limit yourself, you will not become addicted.  One plain, small bar of dark chocolate a day is enough to provide you with health benefits.
The best kind of chocolate to buy is all natural, or organic.  Choose the kinds with the least amount of sugar, being that the food industry adds most of the sugar into the food.  Try to avoid milk chocolate products because they are typically not the healthiest, and know that just because a candy bar is made with dark chocolate doesn’t mean it’s healthy.  Many of these candy bars have other substances in them, like caramel, nuts, etc… that compromise the nutritional benefit of the chocolate.
Now you know that chocolate isn’t as bad for you as you may have once thought.  You now have a healthy and tasty option for a dessert to dig into every single day.

Brianna Elliott is a regular contributor for PSCLife.com, a student at the University of Wisconsin - Stout, and last (but not least) a chocolate lover.  PSCLife.com is a website for the sweetest of health nuts...they are also one of the web's leading retailers of Ultra Jarro-Dophilus - a probiotic supplement designed for digestive balance and overall immune system functioning.

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