Chocolate Facts & Fiction
Most people enjoy chocolate and agree that it tastes wonderful, yet they also have misconceptions about its effect on health. Here are some facts (Provided by The American Dietetic Association/National Center for Nutrition & Dietetics) about chocolate that you may not know.
Chocolate and fat
Chocolate contributes less than two percent of the fat in the American diet.
The main sources of fat are meat, full fat dairy products, and fried foods.
Chocolate and saturated fats
While chocolate contains some saturated fats, studies have shown that not all types of saturated fats raise blood cholesterol levels. For example, stearic acid is a saturated fat that makes up one-third of the fat in chocolate. Stearic acid does not raise blood cholesterol levels. In addition, oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil, makes up one-third of the fat in chocolate. Eating foods with oleic acid as part of a healthful eating plan has been shown to be beneficial for heart health.
Chocolate and caffeine
Chocolate contains very little caffeine. See the chart below for the caffeine content of a few foods and beverages.
Chocolate and polyphenols
Chocolate is made from cocoa beans which come from the cocoa tree Theobroma cacao. As a result, chocolate contains many of the same healthy compounds from plants, including minerals (copper, iron, zinc, and magnesium) and specific antioxidants called polyphenols. Polyphenols, like those found in tea and red wine are currently being studied for their potential health benefits.
Chocolate and allergies
Allergies to chocolate are very uncommon. If you have been diagnosed with food allergies by a board-certified allergist, you must read labels and avoid the foods or ingredients that cause the allergic reaction. A registered dietitian can help you plan meals and select foods that exclude the food to which you are allergic.
Chocolate and headaches
Research shows that most headaches and chocolate intake are not related. Experts agree that most often it is stress, irregular sleep patterns, hunger, and hormone changes that trigger headaches.
Chocolate and tooth decay
Tooth decay happens when carbohydrates (both complex and simple) mix with natural bacteria in the mouth. This creates acid that breaks down the enamel on teeth. Chocolate, which contains carbohydrates, is no more or less responsible for tooth decay than other carbohydrate- containing foods like bread, raisins, crackers, and fruit. In fact, chocolate actually clears the mouth relatively quickly, reducing the time it spends in contact with the teeth.
A recent study looked at why we crave chocolate and concluded that people do not become addicted to chocolate. Instead, the study found that people desire chocolate because they enjoy the sensation of eating it.
Chocolate and hyperactivity
Pediatricians say there is no link between the sugar found in chocolate or other foods and restlessness or attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children.