Chocolate, in moderation, may have benefits

Lindt chocolate with 90 percent cocoa and little sugar is a healthier choice than the cookies sold by seniors in the Center. Highly-sugared buttery chocolate and fatty cookies negate any possible health benefits from chocolate.

Anjali Shrestha
Features Editor

The consumption of dark chocolate and its affects on the heart may prove to be a sweet salvation for chocolate lovers.

“Eating chocolate as part of a varied diet where intake is balanced with regular exercise is probably healthy for the heart,” said registered dietician Carol Duncan.

Chocolate — accused of causing obesity, acne and mood swings — can actually be healthy in small doses. Chocolate has a reputation for being unhealthy because it often has high amounts of sugar and fat, but the antioxidants in the cocoa can be beneficial.

“As a child I was told not to eat chocolate because it was unhealthy but hearing now that it can help in moderation is exciting,” said sophomore Lily Kaplan. “The fact that I can get antioxidants from something other than fruit and vitamins is a pleasant surprise.”

Chocolate can be beneficial for blood vessel function and helping the cardiovascular system.

“The compounds in chocolate help blood to flow freely and the blood vessels that carry the blood to expand and contract as the heart pumps blood throughout the circulatory system,” said Duncan. “The immediate benefit to the heart is to maintain blood pressure so that the heart is not overworked.”

The antioxidants in chocolate can protect DNA and preserve cell membranes and even ward off cardiovascular problems.

“The artery can get clogged with a cholesterol called low density lipo-proteins (LDL),” said Patrick Hanley, R.N. “LDL, with oxidation, start to stick to artery walls and this is called artery sclerosis, hardening of arteries. Antioxidants keep arteries from hardening and keep LDLs from laying fatty materials on the wall.

Flavonoids, found in foods such as chocolate and brussel sprouts, and cause the production of antioxidants.

“The body causes antioxidant activity to try to expel flavonoids,” said Hanley. “By ingesting flavonoids the body chemistry is changed by trying to expel them and this is what makes antioxidants.”

Flavonoids, the metabolites that can be found in cocoa and help the blood vessels dilate and expand.

The antioxidants in the cocoa can classify chocolate as a helpful treat, but they cannot take the place of the basic food groups that also give antioxidants.

“You should be eating seven to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day to get these antioxidants,” said Hanley. “Chocolate has the flavonoids which cause the body to produce antioxidants, but the cocoa cannot be eaten in place of Vitamin C and E.”