about chocolate
by Laura Zohman MA LDN CHT

Chocolate is derived from the cacao bean found in the fruit pod of the cacao tree. It is similar to other fruits and vegetables containing flavonoids, recommended for healthy hearts. Flavonoids, stimulate neuro-vascular (nerves and heart) activity enhancing memory and alertness. Flavonoids are considered anti-oxidants which clean up free radicals, (by products of oxidation), protecting cardiovascular health. There are other healthful ingredients in chocolate, as well.

Magnesium may be the reason that chocolate is craved during the menstrual time of the month when magnesium is deficient. Tryptophan, an amino acid, is a precursor to serotonin, the “happy” brain chemical which lessens anxiety and depression. Phenylethylamine, the “love” chemical inspires warm and cuddly feelings and is the perfect gift for Valentine’s Day.

Light chocolate is milk chocolate. The addition of milk dilutes the concentration of cocoa solids and lessens flavonoids. The darker the chocolate, the more cocoa butter and cocoa solids it contains. Look for at least 70% cocoa content. Choose expensive, perhaps imported, chocolates containing real cocoa butter, not hydrogenated oils and milk fats which are unhealthy. Look for real vanilla and other natural ingredients, rather than artificial additives.

A piece or two of expensive chocolate, one ounce at a time, contains 135 calories. If eaten slowly, the delicious flavor, aroma and texture can be felt throughout the body, as it melts in the mouth. Eating small amounts of fabulous chocolate for an occasional treat is preferable to devouring boxes of bon-bons or candy bars which will add inches to your waist and hips. Remember chocolate contains sugar, saturated fat and lots of calories per ounce.

We are all bio-chemically different, and do not tolerate foods in the same way. Chocolate may cause problems for some people. These can be recognized, by just noticing the effects on the body. Those who have sensitivities to milk and milk products or are lactose intolerant, may find milk chocolate causing stomach upsets. Theobromine, an ingredient of chocolate, similar to caffeine, may cause headaches, or insomnia. Other indications of chocolate difficulties are skin problems and constipation.