Innovation Series Episode 1: The truth about cocoa flavanols

It would have been ideal if chocolates were not just the food that satisfies our sweet tooth, but also enhances our health.

They are recently considered as health food because of the rich source of cocoa products present in it, which comprises of flavonoids. These flavanoids have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that are good for cardiovascular health, as well as cognitions and memory. But is the chocolate right source of cocoa flavanol?

Is the amount of cocoa flavanol present in the chocolate enough for the positive impact on health?

There are a few researches present, which shows the positive impact of the consumption of chocolate. However, there are some uncertainty and drawbacks regarding it.

Types of Chocolates

The health advantages you can enjoy depend on the type of chocolate you consume. Not all chocolates are rich with cocoa flavanol. The milk and white chocolate carry no or very little amount of flavanoids. Their consumption will only increase the calorie intake, without any health benefits as such. On the other hand, dark chocolate and cocoa powder has greater quantity of flavanoids. Their intake will definitely progress your health. The darker the color of the chocolate, greater will be the cocoa powder in it. When selecting chocolates, you should go for those that have 60% cocoa solids in them. Chocolates with nuts, creamy centers have low flavonoids and greater calories. (1)

Researches on Health Benefits of Chocolate

A study on Kuna Indians, who lived on islands off the coast of panama, was put forward in which the idea of chocolate being good for health was stated. These people had high blood pressure because of their salt consumption and weight, and low chances of cardiovascular diseases. The researchers were trying to figure out the reason there health was not being affected. At first, they assumed it was their genes, which was proven wrong when individuals start to develop heart disease and high blood pressure, when they moved away from the island.

Later, a professor who studied the relationship between blood pressure and cocoa consumption at the Medical University of South Carolina found that these people consumed cocoa 10 times more than an average person did on a daily basis. (2) However, it is important to realize that Kuna cocoa is not similar to the chocolates we eat. The chocolates consist of milk and sugar, which are roasted, and go through a lot of processes. This makes them less effective and reduces cocoa flavanol. On the other hand, the Kuna’s drink consists of dried and ground cocoa beans with some sweetener, which makes them more efficient.

Another researcher from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital found the decrease in the blood pressure of participants who consumed greater chocolate, especially people who already had high blood pressure. However, there is a chance that the lowering of the blood pressure many not be related to the consumption of chocolate. It could be that the participants, who consumed chocolate, ate whole grain food or worked-out on daily basis. Moreover, the effect could also vary depending on the brand of chocolate you consume.

The research is still going on to figure out whether chocolate can be good for us in the long run or not. But the raw bitter cocoa flavanol will still be more effective, as it is unprocessed, and in its natural form.

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