What's the Deal With: Chocolate
- Written By:Dr. Jaime Schehr N.D, R.D
"What's The Deal With" is a series from Dr. Jaime Schehr (N.D., R.D) that explores the latest health news, buzzy ingredients, and answers your most asked wellness questions.
Chocolate is made from cacao tree seeds, so what you may be thinking is that chocolate is a seed, and seeds are healthy, so chocolate is naturally healthy. Well, yes it starts off that way, but that seed hardly resembles a Snickers! Here’s what you need to know about chocolate:
Cacao seeds are naturally high in biologically active phenolic compounds (aka antioxidants), which give chocolate it’s most powerful health claim. The higher the cocoa content, as in dark chocolate, the more benefits there are.
So what exactly are the benefits? Chocolate has been studied for its benefits on heart health, cholesterol, cognitive function, mood, circulatory health, anti-aging, athletic performance and more— so it sure sounds like chocolate is good for many things. While the studies are not wrong, what they are looking at are particular constituents of chocolate such as plant sterols, antioxidants, and epicatechins.
But here’s the catch: raw cacao is far from sweet and creamy, and barely resembles that of the chocolate marketed all over our food industry. That chocolate is made with sugar, fat and dairy–three powerful ingredients that pretty much make anything delicious.
When looking for high quality chocolate, keep in mind that the higher the percent of cacao, the more health benefits. Dark chocolate is considered between 50-90% cacao. Lower sugar is always best option, however be mindful that your lower sugar chocolate is not filled with sugar substitutes or sweeteners
So while chocolate in its raw form is pretty healthy, the chocolate most of us crave should be consumed in moderation. I often recommend portioned squares of high quality dark chocolate as a sweet treat. However, if you suffer from migraines, PCOS or acne, you may want to limit chocolate as it could potentially exacerbate those conditions.