There is plenty of research out there that shows the health benefits of good dark chocolate. These may include reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and dementia. Chocolate also makes us feel good. It stimulates endorphin production, which gives a feeling of pleasure. It also contains serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant. And there are plenty of other ingredients, such as theobromine and caffeine, which are stimulants.
As a physician who supports a natural approach to good health, I suppose such research is all well and good. Except that if you look at the fine print of the British study, we find that it would take eating 5 bars of chocolate to replicate the amount of flavanols studied in the experiment. So how many extra calories or extra caffeine must we ingest to enjoy the benefits described in the study?
Now don't get me wrong. I am occasionally enjoy a goodchocolate. However, we have to approach such stories with a bit of common sense. The number of people who go off on a chocolate binge (“chocoholics”) armed with this information is legion. Even food that is good for you can become harmful when it is overdone.
And binging on chocolate is a chief culprit. First of all, the benefits come from the the natural, bitter tasting dark chocolate (as known to the Maya of the Yucatan before the Spanish arrived and began adding sugar,fats,etc to make “milk” chocolate). Milk chocolate contains far more calories, fat, sugars, and has a lower cocoa (the magic ingredient) content. Most importantly, we need to balance our caloric intake daily. A half-bar of dark chocolate contains 200 calories. So that means we have to reduce our intake of calories somewhere else. And that reduction should not come from our daily portions of fruits and vegetables or high quality proteins, such as fish. In other words we shouldn't eat our chocolate in addition to another sweet or dessert. Rather, our chocolate addiction needs replace other treats. We can’t have our (chocolate) cake and eat it.
And don't forget, all the studies proclaiming the benefits or chocolate were not counting the nougats, nuts, cherry and mint sugar fillings often found in this favorite indulgence.