Feb 1, 2007

The Sad Truth About Chocolate

by Heidi Ferguson

What is the deal with chocolate?  We love it.  We can't get enough of it. But it leaves us feeling guilty.  I'm sure that most of you are gazing at your love handles and resolving to keep your chocolate consumption to minimal levels ever since exhuming most of the Snickers supply at the local grocery store during the holidays.  Unfortunately, Valentine's Day is right around the corner.  Valentine's Day, as we all know, is dedicated to two things:  the passionate expression of love and eating chocolate.  So how can we eat tons of chocolate this Valentine's Day guilt-free?  The answer is you can't. 

As of late, a popular piece of information is that dark chocolate is healthy for you.  It is true; recent articles have uncovered that there are small amounts of antioxidants and phyto-chemicals in dark chocolate.  But when we read these articles, we have to ask ourselves three questions, says Merrill Christensen, a professor of nutrition at Brigham Young University.  The first question we should ask is "is it true?"  Well, most of the articles are written by scientists who have conducted studies and found that dark chocolate contains small amounts of antioxidants as well as phyto-chemicals.  But what are antioxidants?  Skipping over the scientific explanation, antioxidants basically get rid of free radicals in your body, which damage cells. And what are phyto-chemicals?  These are nutrients that have been found to have beneficial effects on the body that can't be fulfilled by vitamin pills. 

The second question we need to ask is "is it significant?"  The answer, in most cases, is probably not.  Yes, there are beneficial elements to dark chocolate, but how much chocolate do you have to eat in order to equal the amount you'd get just by eating an apple?  And how many calories are you racking up in order to get the right amount of those antioxidants?  The answer is fairly clear: you're better off just eating an apple.

The third question is this:  "To whom does the study apply?"  Christensen said that most of these studies have been conducted with Caucasian, overweight, middle-aged men with high cholesterol.  That doesn't mean that the study applies to the entire population, or to you, unless you're a Caucasian, overweight, middle-aged guy with high cholesterol. 

So what does this mean?  It means that you're going to keep eating chocolate, and so am I.  But I'm not going to be deluded into thinking that if I eat dark chocolate I will be much healthier.  And there is certainly no way that dark chocolate could ever replace eating plenty of fruits and veggies.  The only way to really get the amount of antioxidants and phyto-chemicals that you need is to eat a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. 

No comments:

Post a Comment