We've heard it a million times before...dark chocolate is a magical superfood! It can help with brain and heart health! Enjoy a few squares every night!
We love a rich and velvety chocolate treat as much as anyone, but those amazing health claims need a hefty reality check.
1. While dark chocolate is slightly "better" than milk chocolate due to the antioxidants, it’s also higher in calories and saturated fat.
2. There has yet to be any high quality clinical trial conducted that proves consuming dark chocolate results in substantial physiological benefits.
3. The studies that have been conducted have been observational (not showing cause and effect) and point to the antioxidant benefit of flavonols in the chocolate. However, the amount of flavonols consumed in these studies is the equivalent of 6-8 bars a day (1000+ cals)! Talk about sugar crash. There are much easier and healthier ways to get your antioxidants.
4. The majority of studies claiming to show health benefits have been funded by candy manufacturing giants like Mars (over 140 published scientific papers). Hmmm, interesting...
5. Dark chocolate is often touted as being a fantastic source of iron, calcium, fiber, copper, zinc, and magnesium - a "nutrient powerhouse." But upon closer inspection, iron and magnesium are the only nutrients that have a decent profile. Hardly worth the sugar and calories when there are loads of other places you can get them.
6. The definition of "dark chocolate" varies wildly, so it's hard to come up with any reliable rules regarding the amount of flavonols in each bar. You really have no way of knowing what you're getting. And keep in mind that processing cocoa beans into chocolate bars removes most of the beneficial antioxidants while adding sugar and saturated fat. So you end up with candy that tastes good, but is a far cry from the "superfood" we read about.
Phew! Have we ruined Valentine's Day for you? We hope not! Just keep these things in mind so you don't fool yourself into thinking you're doing something great for your health by downing an entire box of candy in one sitting. Plan to enjoy the sweet treats from your sweetheart in moderation and your body will thank you for it.