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Fact Checker: Any Truth to These Chocolate Myths?

Ms. Sarah Farooqi

2 min read

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Since ancient times, chocolate has been regarded, even revered, as a nutritious food with multiple health benefits. Yet, despite being a multibillion-dollar global industry, this delightful treat has been painted in an unhealthful light from the last century or so; making chocolate the guilty pleasure that it is not.

Here we look at some long-standing chocolate myths, and reveal the facts behind them:

1-Cacao, Chocolate, Same Difference:

Cacao is the raw seed of the Theobroma cacao tree, and is present in varying quantities in different types of chocolate, which range from dark and unsweetened (100% content) to Dutch, bittersweet, sweet dark (15-34% cacao), milk (10% cacao with milk fat and solids), and cocoa.

White chocolate is not part of this list because it is not a cacao-containing chocolate, but a confection made of vanilla, sugar, cream, cocoa butter (a saturated fat found in cacao), and/or milk solids.

2-Acne Galore:

Most teenagers may have grown up believing that their acne breakouts are due to their chocolate indulgence, but numerous medical studies over the past years say otherwise.

It has been proven that acne has no direct link to the food-any food-that we consume, but is rather the result of dead cell, acne-causing bacteria, and excess oil (sebum) accumulation on the skin.

That being said, everyone’s body has a different reaction to different foods. If you truly believe that chocolate is behind your acne woes, then stop consumption for 2-4 weeks. If the acne clears up, you have your culprit; if not, then continue enjoying this delectable delight.

3-Caffeine Highs:

Chocolate does contain caffeine, but not as much as we think. The energy boost provided by chocolate consumption is brief and unsustainable as compared to the 4-8-hour boost provide by a cup of coffee. Most chocolate bars contain 6-31 mg of caffeine; much less than the 200-350 mg present in 1 coffee cup.

4-Zero Nutrition:

Dark chocolate is actually rich in polyphenols; powerful antioxidants that are also found in green tea and blueberries, and are responsible for protecting the skin, immune system, and numerous bodily functions by eliminating free radicals.

In fact, one bar of dark chocolate contains polyphenol content equivalent to 2 ¾ cups of green tea and a 2/3 cup of blueberries.

Moreover, chocolate also contains large amounts of dietary fiber, iron, copper, zinc, and magnesium, all of which are essential for multiple body functions.

Which brings us to our next point:

5-Go 70% or Go Home:

While a higher cacao content (i.e. the darker the chocolate) does ensure optimum health benefits due to a higher antioxidant and mineral content, you don’t necessarily have to limit your chocolate consumption to the highly bitter 70% cacao.

Multiple studies show that even 50% dark chocolate can provide significant health benefits, particularly to the cardiovascular system.

6-Bad for the Heart:

Cocoa butter, the main saturated fat found in chocolate may increase LDL (bad cholesterol) levels to some extent. However, stearic acid which makes up most of the saturated fat content in cocoa butter diverts from the normal cholesterol-elevating function of saturated fats, and has been proven to not have a negative effect on cholesterol levels.

Moreover, high phytochemical content can help increase HDL (good cholesterol) levels, along with reduce inflammation and lowering blood pressure.

7-Teeth’s Worst Enemy:

Chocolate, or any confection for that matter, does not form cavities and plaque on its own. It is, in the fact, the oral bacteria that metabolizes the unremoved sugars and starches left over on the teeth (a result of bad oral hygiene) from any type of food to produce acid. This acid then causes cavities by gradually reducing tooth enamel.

Conversely, the cacao in chocolate actually helps fight oral bacteria and tooth decay, according to a 2014 study by researchers from Osaka University, Japan.  Moreover, the previously mentioned stearic acid also reduces bacteria exposure time of chocolate by clearing it faster from the mouth than any other confection.

The final verdict: Chocolate is not the villain it was made out to be. However, try taking at least 50% cacao, and as with every food type, consume in moderation, because an average 3-ounce milk chocolate bar contains 426 calories and 26 g of fat, and the average daily nutrition requirement is only 2000 calories, which fills up faster than one might think. Consult with your doctor if you are confused about your daily nutritional requirements.

You can also book an appointment with a top Nutritionist in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad through oladoc.com, or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor for your dietary concerns.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Ms. Sarah Farooqi - Author Ms. Sarah Farooqi is among the Best Nutritionists in Lahore. Sarah Farooqi is a leading Dietician at Shapes and Diet360. She worked as Nutritionist at Fatima Memorial Hospital previously. Sarah can be seen sharing her expertise in Shapes Newsletter and at seminars on various health and nutrition topics.
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