How can something so good be so bad? This was a question that I often asked myself while devouring the candy and chocolate I squirreled away in my "special drawer. " I grew up in a household that has always been health conscious. My mother was one of those exercise and natural food fiends who believed that popcorn was the only acceptable "junk food. " Every Halloween she would remind us that she was letting us go out to trick or treat for tradition's sake. She would then go into what I secretly called the "evil candy lecture".(Think Willy Wonka's dad in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. ) She would frighten us with stories of kids having their teeth fall out after eating candy. This lecture was repeated at Easter even as our grandparents handed us huge chocolate bunnies and chocolate eggs. As we grew older and wiser to the myth of the falling teeth, she changed tactics and warned us about zits and fat. We wouldn't want to look like a pimple that grew a face now, would we? She was pretty much the same with the kids I went home with who, after raiding the refrigerator for chocolate would turn up empty handed.
Mom would always chide us saying: "You guys already have so much energy that you can't even sit still. What would you want more sugar for? " To me, chocolate is that "secret sin" that a lot of people hide within the very cold depths of their refrigerators. People sneak bites of that luscious brown concoction, savoring its sweetness that varies from the dark and bittersweet to the hybrid milk chocolate like it was something so illegal. The many warnings against indulging in the often foil-wrapped sweet treat are unending.
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The dentist would warn against the extra acid needed to dissolve left over chocolate in the mouth that therefore result into cavities. Nutritionists and dietitians use the magic "C-word" or calories when preaching against the evils of chocolate consumption. The media including television, the movies or advertising also add to the popular concerns about chocolate intake. Often portrayed, the scene has become familiar - a kid eating chocolate and candy normally is shown sporting bad teeth or is a fat slob with chocolate stains all over his hands and shirt.
The svelte and gorgeous ladies on daytime shows referring to chocolate, cake and ice cream as "guilty" things. Chocolate's high levels of sugar, fat and calories have been blamed for a multitude of bad things from diabetes, acne, to rapidly and uncontrollably expanding waistlines. Yet it might surprise people to know that chocolate does have a good side to it. Minus the sugar and calories, it can almost qualify as a health food. "The botanical name for the cacao - or cocoa - bean is Theobroma, meaning Food Of The Gods. " ("Charlie's Chocolate Fact-Ory; SOME," 2005, p. 24)
Cocoa beans are the source of chocolate. While no chocolate formula is alike, it is an accepted fact that cocoa beans from which chocolate is derived from is rich in flavonoids or plant chemicals which have polyphenol which exhibits anti-oxidant properties (Isham, 2007. p. 27 ). While polyphenol is also present in many fruits, vegetables, tea and red wine, some people may say that it is easier to be "healthy" when you actually like the food you are eating. ("More Friendly News…" 1993) Between broccoli and a Snickers bar… is this really a choice?
Recent studies have also shown that flavonoids protect the heart from the damaging effects of unstable oxygen compounds, which can damage blood vessels. A study conducted in Germany and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that the intake of dark chocolate could lower blood pressure. Similar studies have also shown that the flavonoids found in cocoa have anti-blood clotting properties and could decrease the level of low-density lipoproteins, otherwise known as bad cholesterol. (Taubert, Roesen, et. al. 2007)
The two-year study, which was conducted at a primary care clinic in Germany from 2005 to 2006, tested adults with mild untreated hypertension. Half of the test subjects where given polyphenol-rich dark chocolate bars while half where given white chocolate, which is mainly made up of cocoa butter. Results indicated no change from the blood pressure of the white chocolate eating group while an average drop of 5 points of systolic pressure and 2 points of diastolic pressure was monitored from the dark-chocolate group within two weeks. (Taubert, 2007)
So while eating dark chocolate could be beneficial to our health, what about the supposed tooth cavities it brings? It has after all been widely believed that the acid the mouth needed to produce to "clean" the chocolate off teeth damages tooth enamel and causes decay. According to research done by the Forsyth Dental Center in Boston Massachusetts, "normal consumption of milk chocolates, especially at meals" had no direct connection in causing cavities since chocolate by itself has the ability to "offset the acid-producing potential" of its sugar content.
("Myths and Facts") What about the supposed correlation between chocolates and acne? Much to the delight of chocolate lovers, independent studies done at the University of Pennsylvania and the U. S. Naval Academy have categorically disproved this myth. There is also no truth that chocolate lovers take in too much caffeine. An ounce of milk chocolate only contains 6 mg. of caffeine, not much more than what is found in a cup of decaffeinated coffee. The only fat in plain chocolate comes from cocoa butter, which is produced when the roasted cocoa seeds are pressed.
Comparing cocoa butter fat with other fats in food, researchers have discovered that despite its total saturated fat content, cocoa butter does not raise levels of bad cholesterol such as other kids of fat did. Such was the result of a study conducted by Dr. Margo Denke and Dr. Scott M. Grundy as published in the December 1991 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. ("More 'Friendly' News About Chocolate And Beef," 1992). Rather than be harmful, cocoa butter is good given its high stearic acid content, which is cholesterol neutral.
(Ross, 2001) Even chocolate milk is better than just plain milk as it has been proven to contain more zinc, potassium, niacin and riboflavin than plain whole milk. (Roesel & Overly) Experts say that to get the best possible antioxidant benefits, one should prefer dark chocolates and not those mixed with milk as it appears that the milk solids deter the absorption of antioxidants. (Taubert, 2007) There is also that persistent belief that some component or chemical part of chocolates make them addictive.
Leah Porter, vice president of scientific affairs for the Chocolate Manufacturers Association in Vienna, believes that the supposed addiction is merely craving caused by the taste and smell of chocolate. "Chocolate's appeal is due to aroma, flavor and creaminess, not any addictive properties," says Ms. Porter, who holds a doctorate in plant sciences. "If it's addictive, then other foods are addictive. " ("Chocolate's Dark Little Secret;," 2005, p. B01) Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine, a chemical that increases in our brains that gives us a feeling of well-being and euphoria that is similar to the feeling of being in love.
("'Eating Chocolate Makes You," 2006, p. 30) In addition to this, it also stimulates hormones that deaden "pain" areas making it an effective and non-medicated answer to headaches (Daly & Fredholm, 2004, p. 1) Given this, it is no wonder that chocolate is among the most common “comfort” foods that people crave for especially in times when they are down and emotionally distressed. Despite these findings, critics abound against the touted health benefits of chocolate. Many are skeptical about these so-called benefits and view pro-chocolate studies as highly biased since these were commissioned by the chocolate manufacturers themselves.
Some researchers question the supposed benefits of flavonoids saying that sufficient tests in a controlled environment have not been done (Tanner, 2003). Add to this the fact that most tests done are through chocolate manufacturing industry funded research damages their findings' credibility. John W. Erdman, a professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois concurs with this problem but notes that it is a "necessary evil" since research would be very difficult to conduct if it relied entirely on independent funding (Schmidt, 2002).
Erdman further adds that most of the time the Food and Drug Administration only conducts tests after preliminary research has been done. He adds that one positive way to look at things is that at least, it may not be such a bad thing that companies are investigating the nutritional value of their products. (Schmidt, 2002)
Charlie's Chocolate Fact-Ory; SOME TASTY FACTS ON OUR FAVOURITE SNACK 2ozs Can Kill a Dog Was Once a Medicine 400 Beans Make 1lb It Speeds Heartbeat. (2005, July 17). The People (London, England), p. 24. Chocolate's Dark Little Secret; What's Good and What's Not about Tasty Treat. (2005, March 22).
The Washington Times, p. B01. Daly, J. W. , & Fredholm, B. B. (2004). 1 Mechanisms of Action of Caffeine on the Nervous System. In Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, and the Brain, Nehlig, A. (Ed. ) (pp. 1-11). Boca Raton, FL: Routledge. Retrieved October 9, 2007 from http://www. questia. com/read/108551912 'Eating Chocolate Makes You Feel Good'. (2006, December 19). South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales), p. 30. Isham, A. (2007) "Eat (More) Chocolate --Lose Weight (Anyway)" The Chocoholic's Survival Guide and Practical Handbook. Pandora McShannon Press. "More 'Friendly' News About Chocolate And Beef" (1992) Southwestern Medical Center for Human Nutrition. (Dallas, Texas).
Retrieved from Southwestern Medical Center for Human Nutrition database: http://www8. utsouthwestern. edu/utsw/cda/dept27717/files/48295. html.
"Myths and Facts. " Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company. Retrieved October 8, 2007 from Chocolate Chocolate Company website: http://www. chocolatechocolate. com/mythfact. htm.
Nehlig, A. (Ed. ). (2004). Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, and the Brain. Boca Raton, FL: Routledge. Ross, J. (2001 March), "Cocoa and Chocolate as Functional Foods" Natural Health Products Technology Cluster. Retrieved from htttp://www. uoguelph. ca/nhptc/Jessica1. html.
Roesel, K., Overly, B. "All About Chocolate" Kentucky State University Cooperative Extension Program Retrieved from http://ces. ca. uky. edu/bourbon/fcs/all_about_chocolate. htm.
Schmidt, P. (2002) "Chocolate's Potential Health Benefits – and its Effect on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Patients. " ImmuneSupport. com. Retrieved from ImmuneSupport databse: http://www. immunesupport. com/library/showarticle. cfm/ID/3464/ Tanner, L. ( 2003 August 27)"Studies Show Light, Dark Sides of Milk, Dark Chocolate. " USA Today. USA Today. com. Retrieved October 9, 2007 from http://www. usatoday. com/news/health/2003-08-27-dark-chocolate_x.htm.
Taubert, D. (2007 July 3) Consumption Of Small Amounts Of Dark Chocolate Associated With Reduction In Blood Pressure. Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Retrieved from JAMA database: http://pubs. ama-assn. org/media/2007j/0703. dtl#1 Taubert, D. Roesen, R. Lehman, C. Jung, N. Schomig, E. (2007) "Effects of Low Habitual Cocoa Intake on Blood Pressure and Bioactive Nitric Oxide: A Randomized Controlled Trial. " Journal of American Medical Association Vol. 298 No. 1. pp 49-60 Retrieved October 9, 2007 from JAMA database: http://jama. ama-assn. org/cgi/content/abstract/298/1/49.
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