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From: Jeff Novick, MS, RD, LD, LN (novick.vegsource.com)
Subject:         Re: Chocolate -- to eat or not to eat
Date: August 9, 2007 at 5:47 am PST

In Reply to: Chocolate -- to eat or not to eat posted by Bethany on August 9, 2007 at 4:20 am:

Here is an article I wrote on the subject..

(PS the actual drops in blood pressure you hear about from
consuming chocolate, are very small)

“Is Chocolate a Health Food?

The Good News:

A few studies have found that chocolate may promote healthy
blood flow. A new Italian study, for instance, observed that people
who ate 3˝ ounces of dark chocolate each day for a few weeks
lowered blood pressure and boosted insulin sensitivity. *

Another study, from University of California, Davis, found that
chocolate, like aspirin, helped prevent platelets from sticking
together, which can impede blood flow and increase the risk of
dangerous blood clots. **

Scientists suspect (but are far from sure) that the potential benefits
come from the antioxidants in chocolate, which may help
neutralize potentially cell-damaging substances known as free
radicals.

But Don't Raid the Candy Aisle Just Yet:

The studies on chocolate have been small. The Italian study
involved just 15 people; the UC Davis study, 40.
There can be a huge downside. The 3˝ ounces of chocolate in the
Italian study tallied up a whopping 480 extra calories consumed
each day. The pounds these calories might add to many Americans’
already plump waistlines would likely cancel out any benefits of
chocolate and, in fact, do harm in multitudinous ways, like higher
cholesterol levels, higher blood pressure, reduced insulin
sensitivity, and significantly greater risk of heart attacks, strokes,
and diabetes.

Even if you eat dark chocolate and don’t gain weight, dark
chocolate is high in saturated fats, which raise LDL bad cholesterol
levels. Milk chocolate, which contains milk fat, has even more
artery-clogging saturated fatty acids and cholesterol.

Marketers love to promote studies showing that antioxidants are
healthful, but several large clinical trials have found just the
opposite: antioxidants like beta-carotene and vitamin E actually
increased the risk of cancer or heart disease in some people. The
evidence that antioxidants are protective, in short, is far from
conclusive.

What scientists do know, unequivocally, is that a diet full of fruits
and vegetables (which are rich not only in antioxidants but also
hundreds of other nutrients) are linked with lower cholesterol
levels and markedly lower risk of many diseases, including heart
disease.

Plus, the more fruits and vegetables you eat, the less room you
have for calorie-dense, nutrient-poor food like candy, chips, and
soda.

* American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2005; 81: 611.
** American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2000; 72: 30.

There are ways you can use pure cocoa powder, in small amount
which may provide some of the benefit you hear about, without all
the negatives of the fat, saturated fat, and calories. But the
problem cocoa, is VERY bitter and so must be sweetened someway
if you are going to enjoy it. Some mix in into smoothies or fruit
salads, or mashed bananas. Others into nondairy milks.

Me? I skip it. Why? we really need to get away from the concept of
these "super" or "miracle" foods which have special value. When
added to a bad diet, they may have minor benefit. But why eat or
promote a bad diet, and then a special "fix" to it. If you are eating
a really healthy diet, then you dont need to add these foods.

The best foods are the fresh fruits and veggies which are loaded
with all the vital nutrients you need.

In health
Jeff

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