Chocolate, Coffee, and Cheese are most definitely the three C’s of life. In limelight, in this article, is chocolate! I’ve streamlined my chocolate research to sum it down to four goods and bads. In particular, dark chocolate is all that and more. It’s always the tall, dark, and handsome that makes things right, doesn’t it? International research studies hail chocolate as the healing charm. It’s quite a blessing if you ask me, because it’s working on so many levels in our body.
So let’s dive straight into the Choco-Science and find out how chocolate is right, and not right, for the mind, body, and soul.
Good #1 Beats Mood Swings
If you’re familiar with the Harry Potter books and movies you must have seen how Harry Potter eats chocolate to fight the after-effects of confronting a Dementor – a foul creature known to drain out one’s happy feelings. That is how chocolate actually works in real life.
Women tend to feel down-in-the-dumps when they go through their premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and the menstrual phase itself. Mood fluctuations are also common in menopausal women. Furthermore, puberty, or circumstances, bring about spells of depression. Chocolate is definitely a magic charm in such scenarios.
Phenylethylamine (PEA) in chocolate triggers the brain to release opioids which reduce pain sensations, bring pleasure, and create an overall sense of well-being. Dark chocolate has the highest quantities of PEA. Another chemical tryptophan triggers the release of the “happy-hormone” serotonin which boosts a person’s mood. Serotonin is exactly what is needed to balance a lady’s hormones which go out of balance during menstruation and menopause. Plus, the smell of chocolate initiates theta waves in the brain which relax you!
Good #2 Nutritiously Delicious
If you instantly need energy, chocolate is for you. Unsweetened chocolate contains the most proteins which give you the best energy without harming your body. Their quantities become less as the sugar content of chocolate increases i.e. bittersweet and semisweet varieties have very less quantities and sweet chocolate has no protein at all. Your regular chocolate bar is loaded with fats, sugars, and calories.
So if you need a quick energy boost, say right before your final exam, have a piece of chocolaty goodness. It will balance the mood, and give you an energy high.
Good #3 Good for Heart and Mind
Scientific research studies, conducted by international research institutes, have it that controlled quantities of the right kind of chocolate, like the dark one, are known to fight heart and brain attacks by preventing blood clots.
Antioxidants in the chocolate prevent strokes (brain attacks) and heart attacks by preventing blood clotting factors. Flavonoids maintain elasticity of your blood vessels (arteries and veins) which regulate blood flow and keep the stress off your heart.
Good #4 The Healing Charm
I’d say chocolate is one of the countless blessings from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. It is remarkable how a bitter cocoa bean, preserved in a cocoa pod can be crushed and sugar-infused to prepare a delicious, aromatic, and beneficial concoction. It works to heal and protect multiple physical facets of the human body. But of course, in everything, Allah has advised moderation.
Blood inflammation, caused by release of proteins, in various conditions like infections, arthritis, injuries and burns, and muscular disorders is also greatly reduced by dark chocolate. There is credible evidence that a certain compound called pentameric procyanidin, prevents cancer and the spread of cancer cells. Controlled chocolate consumption reduces the risk of diabetes because it triggers the body to be sensitive to sugar and promptly produce insulin – the required enzyme that breaks it down. Theobromine, a sweet chemical in chocolate, controls coughs. There you go, you know what to do when you catch a cold.
The Dark Side of Chocolate
Of course, one can never have enough chocolate, right? Wrong! Going overboard with chocolate is an open invitation for health issues. There is a dark side to chocolate that comes about when there are no controls set on consuming chocolate.
Bad #1 Weight Management Issues
Self-control is important, otherwise Mr. Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory would not have been so slim and smart. The key is to avoid heavily processed chocolate and look for the organic, dark breed.
Chocolates are full of calories, saturated fats (bad fats!), and sugar. While controlled quantities actually do good for the body, excessive consumption leads to unpleasant weight gain. Note that sugar is converted to fat in the body, when consumed in excess. The fat calories do not burn easily, unless a proper body workout, or other physical activity is performed. Drinking chocolate beverages such as hot chocolate and mochas, eating heavy chocolate cakes, and snacking on large bars is when chocolate consumption goes out of control.
People may gain weight beyond healthy limits, and those on a diet and workout routine may find themselves ruining the results.
Bad #2 General Health Disorders
Chocolate is one of the top foods that are consumed by binge eaters – people who consume excessive loads of food for comfort. Remember! Chocolate should not be used as a routine comfort food because, let’s face it, we deal with a lot of stress and all if it cannot be treated with chocolate. Excess consumption causes cravings for more, and eventually people find themselves falling towards obesity and heart disease.
Sugar, as it is, causes inflammation in the body. So, if you eat a lot of chocolate, the good it does for your muscles and tissues may just be reversed. It can also disrupt the mechanism of the production of Insulin hormone in your absence which causes diabetes.
Bad #3 Oral Health Issues
The sugar in chocolate is the leading cause of tooth decay. Mostly, chocolate is eaten as a snack and nobody cares to brush their teeth afterwards. Letting the sugars sit in your mouth all day creates the perfect environment for oral bacteria to multiply and cause tooth decay. The coloring and flavoring contributes to staining the teeth and bad breath if proper brushing and rinsing is not practiced.
Bad #4 The Bad Kind of Chocolate
The top reason why chocolate can be ultimately bad for everybody is the kind of chocolate they purchase. The healthiest type is the organic, dark, non-processed chocolate. This type of chocolate tastes more towards the bitter side, is very expensive, and is exclusively sold by select chocolatiers. This is why the average chocoholic is found picking up chocolate bags from the aisles of supermarkets, drugstores, and candymarts. These choices are the most non-healthy but the most affordable. The mainstream chocolate; therefore, is not too healthy. The premium and gourmet ones are not easily available and super pricey.
Moral of the Story: Be the Wise Wonka
To get the best out of your chocolate finds, be sure that you know the best brands that are the least processed – if not organic. Healthiest dark chocolate brands are Godiva [72% cacao], Ghirardelli Intense Dark [86% cacao], and Lindt. The chocolates that are known to be processed and need to be consumed with care are Snickers, M&M’s, Twix, Bounty, Mars, KitKat, and Cadbury Dairy Milk among many others.
Keep a tap on your consumption. 35 grams of chocolate daily is the recommended daily allowance [RDA] as concluded from the finding of the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences. But then, also calculate the sugar load, fats, and calories before you dig into your favorite bar.