Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Dark Chocolate, Justified Or Not?
In my personal opinion, dark chocolate is a little gift from heaven. It's smooth, rich, savory, sweet, and gives you that momentary escape from the world around you. I've always preferred it to milk chocolate, as has the rest of my family. There's just something about that dark flavor that isn't quite as "in your face" sweet that captivates me, pulls me in and ties me down. No other taste has really grabbed me quite the same way. And if you're like me, you may love chocolate, but have a hard time finding a place for it in your strict diet. Diets and desserts don't tend to go together too often, at least in the traditional sense.
But wait, you've heard about dark chocolate, you've heard that it has a secret. Rumor has it that dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants, and actually is GOOD for you. Yup, you may have heard it from a friend, family member, the radio, TV, newspaper, health magazine, really anywhere, as this so called fact is quite prevalent in society today. Dark chocolate has antioxidants, and that's good enough for you. You embrace that chocolate bar with renewed enthusiasm. Hello beautiful, where have you been all my life?
I can't tell you how frustrated I get every time I see my friends crunch into a dark chocolate candy bar, screaming "hey, dark chocolate's good for you!" in defiance as they see the disappointed look cross my face. Listen folks, I love dark chocolate as much as anyone else, but lets put this rumor to bed.
So what are these antioxidants we're talking about in the same sentence as dark chocolate? They're called flavanoids, and play a big role in decreasing blood pressure and supporting overall cardiovascular health. It's powerful stuff, and getting more into your diet is certainly a good idea. And dark chocolate does have a LOT of flavonoids....er...excuse me...cacao beans have a LOT of flavonoids. Dark chocolate doesn't quite pack the same punch as these raw, natural ingredients, however it still has a significant amount of these powerful antioxidants.
But what is significant? Measurable? A good percentage of the daily dosage? Well, yes to both, but I'd consider a significant source to be a sustainable, every day source of antioxidants, not something similar to dessert. Dark chocolate may contain flavanoids, but I'm here to say there are FAR BETTER sources. And although I'm starting to sound repetitive, take a guess as to what those better sources are?
You got it: Fruits, and Vegetables.
Dark colored fruits are an amazing source of powerful flavonoids. These include most berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries), as well as citrus fruits, like oranges and lemons. Vegetables rich in flavonoids incude onions, tomatoes, broccoli, garlic, and peppers. Although it can be argued that almost all vegetables have at least some flavonoids in them.
Flavonoids are actually repsonsible for all the different colors fruits and vegetables take on. This is why it is prevalent to some degree in any fruit or vegetable you could imagine, and also why the darker the pigment, the more dense the antioxidant punch.
Dark chocolate owes its flavanoid content to the cacao bean. But dark chocolate is definitely not the healthiest source of flavonoids you could be eating. You can think of it this way: if dark chocolate tastes yummy to you, it's got plenty of sugar in it which make it to be that savory dessert you love oh-so-dearly. And while sure, you may be getting some antioxidants with that bar of dark chocolate, that small benefit is not NEARLY enough to justify all the extra sugar and saturated fat you're putting into your system.
Especially when you could have just grabbed a banana and been done with it.
So here's my final word. ENJOY DARK CHOCOLATE. But enjoy it for the right reasons. Don't claim it to be some super food that it clearly is not. Enjoy it because you love it's savory sweet goodness, and because you know you deserve a treat. Keep your intake moderate, 1-2 ounces a day, at most. Eat it when you're not incredibly hungry, so you don't over-indulge. It's a treat, not a health food.
Keep on track, love chocolate, and good luck!