Three exams down, two more to go! My week hasn’t been overly exciting; my days typically are consisting of me studying most of the day, climbing and occasionally working. My roommate and I have brought our kitchen table into our living room so we can study on our comfy couches with a table (best of both worlds :p). Less than a week left, cannot wait!!
Here’s a pic of me at a competition a couple of months ago
So anyways, with the holiday season approaching (and my exams looming) I figured I would talk about Chocolate! Hope you enjoy!
Historically, chocolate has been used for medicinal purposes; by the 1600s it was used for both taste (obviously) and to treat disorders including angina and heart pain. It was only within the last 50 years that its use has shifted to primarily a confectionary one.
Why is chocolate good for me? Chocolate is derived from the cocoa bean and has many health benefits which are associated with its flavonoid, a class of plant metabolites, content. The most abundant flavonoid in chocolate is flavonol; dark chocolate is one of the richest sources for flavonol (responsible for its bitterness) at about 510mg per 100g! Flavonol is known for its antioxidant capacity and has been shown to reduce risks for heart disease.
By 2030, an estimated 23.6 million people will die because of heart disorders according to the World Health Organization. Today, about one fifth of the world is thought to have metabolic syndrome, resulting in increased risks for diabetes and heart disease. Diet is the key factor for heart disorder development; again, flavonol in cocoa is shown to reduce the risks. In a meta-analysis, higher chocolate consumption was associated with a 37% reduction of heart disease risk, 31% reduction of diabetes risk and 29% reduction in stroke risk according to the studies analyzed. Flavonols have been shown to decrease LDL cholesterol oxidation, increase HDL cholesterol, and decrease blood pressure. They have also been shown to affect eicosanoids by increasing prostacyclin (which inhibits blood clotting) and decreasing leukotrienes (which increases vasoconstriction and inflammation).
So what are some factors for the flavonol content in chocolate? Processing is a major player; bean selection, fermentation, roasting and alkalizing are factors in the concentration. Increased time for fermentation and roasting (as well as increased temperatures) will result in more flavonols lost. Alkalization, which is a Dutch process and is also optional, also results in very large losses.
Some other things to take into account before mowing down on a box of chocolates; chocolate is high in calories (about 2100 kJ (500 kcal)/100 g). As a result, increased consumption will cause weight gain which is a factor for hypertension, diabetes, and cardiometabolic disorders. The high sugar content should also be considered, lower sugar chocolates would improve outcomes associated. Chocolate is also high in fat; stearic acid (the fat in chocolate) is unique though in that it doesn’t increase blood cholesterol like other short chain fatty acids.
Wait, chocolate isn’t vegan? Chocolate is actually vegan but the chocolate we see in grocery stores tends to have many additives including milk. A good quality one however will only have cocoa, cocoa butter, lecithin and sugar and therefore be vegan. Lesser quality ones tend to have a lot of filler ingredients (including milk). So there you have it, anyone can enjoy chocolate (but some may have to pay a bit more for it :p).
Anyways, that was my feel-good post of the day. Hope you all have a good rest of the weekend!
American Heart Association. (2010) Heart disease and stroke statistics 2010 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation;121:e46-215.
Buitrago-Lopez A, Sanderson J, Johnson L, Warnakula S, Wood A, Angelantonio E, Franco O. (2011) Chocolate consumption and cardiometabolic disorders: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. ; 343: d4488.
Corti R, Flammer AJ, Hollenberg NK, Luscher TF. (2009)Cocoa and cardiovascular health. Circulation;119:1433-42.
Sudano I, Flammer AJ, Roas S, Enseleit F, Ruschitzka F, Corti R, Noll G. (2012) Cocoa, Blood Pressure, and Vascular Function. Curr Hypertens Rep.(4):279-84.
World Health Organization. (2011) Cardiovascular diseases. Fact sheet No 317. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs317/fr/index.html.