Monday 16 December 2013

Week 51 Nutrition Tip: Eat the Right Chocolate

Since December is probably the month in which the most chocolate is consumed, I could not resist doing a tip on Chocolate as I wrap up this series of 52 Weeks to Better Nutrition and a New You. Unfortunately, most people eat too much of the wrong kind of chocolate, which is obviously not good for your health, performance or body composition. However, I (and I assume many other nutrition nuts) avoided chocolate entirely for years because I thought it was bad for me. However, the more I learned about nutrition, the more I realized I should be consuming the right type of chocolate.

Caution with media hype
It is very likely that you have already heard that chocolate is good for you, as some of the newer research on it has hit the main-stream media. However, when it comes to media hype it is important to remember that news media is about getting people's attention. Chocolate has been a popular topic to talk about in the news because it such a popular and tasty food. So when the news anchor says something like:
"And stay tuned after the break; scientists have discovered that chocolate is actually good for you!"
That statement obviously has more appeal to stay tuned than something like:
"And stay tuned after the break; scientists have discovered that broccoli is actually be good for you!"
However, that being said, there are some tremendous health benefits to chocolate, provided you eat the right type of chocolate.

Health Benefits of Chocolate
Here are a few of the many fantastic benefits of dark chocolate oil from a great nutritional reference book, The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth: The Surprising, Unbiased Truth About What You Should Eat and Why by Dr. Jonny Bowden:

  • 100 g of cocoa-rich chocolate reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease (the number one killer in North America) by 21%.
  • Cocoa contains flavonoids (which are also found in foods such as cranberries, apples, strawberries, onions and tea) that helps protect against environmental toxins.
  • Cocoa contains flavanols which prevent fat like substances in the blood stream from clogging the arteries thus reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Cocoa contains magnesium which is important for heart health
  • Coca flavanols also modulate nitric oxide which is critical for blood flow and healthy blood pressure. (note: nitric oxide is also commonly used to improve improve blood flow to the muscle during training).
  • Cocoa improves insulin sensitivity and healthy people
Important Warnings
While dark chocolate has some great benefits, you have to be aware of a few things:

  1. While the cocoa part of chocolate is very healthy, often the other things added to the chocolate bar are not. Avoid milk chocolate as it contains lots of milk fats and and a relatively low amount of cocoa. Also, cheaper chocolate bars are often loaded with all sorts of other unhealthy ingredients (e.g. caramel as well as waxes and preservatives. Then, of course you have the sugar issue which of course is not good for your health, performance or body composition.
  2. One of my favorite treats
  3. Chocolate can be a VERY addicting food. If you know that when you start eating chocolate, you do not stop, then it may be better to avoid it and simply emphasize other super foods in your diet.

This Week's Application: Integrating the right kind of chocolate into your diet
For a healthy treat, consider getting some dark chocolate. Shoot for at least 70% (I personally prefer 90% to maximize the cocoa and minimize the sugar). Another great and even healthier option is just to add some cocoa powder to a power shake. I personally prefer this option over the chocolate bars as it allows me to get all the health benefits without any of the sugar. Enjoy!

Below are the links to the other weekly habits in this series:
Week 50: Cooking and Storage Options

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