1. Is it really a nutritional powerhouse?
Chocolate is loaded with calories. The average 1.5- to 1.6-ounce milk chocolate bar has roughly 230 calories, with more than half of those coming from fat. Chocolate provides other nutrients, too, but not the ones you might expect: A typical milk chocolate bar provides less than 10% of the daily recommended amount of calcium. But, surprisingly, a that chocolate and products containing chocolate make substantial contributions to our daily intake of copper, an essential mineral in the prevention of anemia and, possibly, heart disease and cancer. Chocolate also provides significant amounts of magnesium, which plays a role in regulating blood pressure and building bones.
2. How does it rate as a heart-healthy food?
Better than you might think. Promising research suggests that chocolate may rival foods like fruits and vegetables, red wine, and tea as a source of . Test-tube experiments at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania found that a single milk chocolate bar contains an amount of polyphenols equivalent to five servings of fruits and vegetables or a glass of wine. (And an ounce and a half of dark chocolate had twice as much.) But don't trade your greens for the sweet stuff yet. Although the health benefits of fruits and vegetables are firmly established, there is no long-term evidence that phenols in chocolate will actually lower heart-disease risk.
Also, chocolate is relatively high in saturated fat. And though it contains stearic acid, which does not raise LDL (bad) cholesterol, bear in mind that even if your heart isn't "counting" the fat grams in chocolate, your tummy, hips, and thighs keep tabs on every calorie — and extra pounds can raise cholesterol levels.
3. Will chocolate help my memory?
Cocoa might. One recent study followed a group of healthy adults in their 50s and 60s who drank a mixture of low and high doses of flavanols (a chemical found in cocoa) daily. At the end of a three month period, those who drank the mixture with the higher doses performed much better on memory tests, and it helped with brain function. Another found that drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day may help prevent memory decline in older people.
4. Isn't chocolate loaded with caffeine?
No. The amount of caffeine in an ounce of milk chocolate is about 7 milligrams — about the same amount contained in a cup of decaffeinated coffee. A cup of full-strength java has more than 20 times that much.
5. Can I eat old chocolate if it has that grayish-white film on it?
Though the haze sometimes found on chocolate is often mistaken for mold, it's actually a harmless substance known as bloom — an accumulation of fat crystals on the surface of the chocolate that can form as a result of storage temperature, various cooling methods, or the presence of certain types of fat in the chocolate. Next time, instead of tossing it out, just pop it in your mouth. Chances are your taste buds won't know the difference.
6. Does chocolate cause acne?
No. Several studies over the past three decades have failed to find a link between chocolate and acne. In a by doctors from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 65 subjects with moderate acne ate either chocolate bars containing 10 times the amount of chocolate found in a typical bar or otherwise identical bars with no chocolate in them. Test subjects who consumed the excessive amount of chocolate for four weeks didn't show signs of increased acne.
7. Can you be addicted to chocolate?
Probably not. Chocolate contains a variety of compounds that in large amounts can produce a druglike effect, but the sensory aspects of this delectable confection — its delicious smell, the feel of it melting in your mouth, its rich taste — are more likely the reasons for your passion. For instance, a found that eating a chocolate bar satisfied a chocolate craving, but swallowing a cocoa-containing capsule had no more effect than a placebo capsule.
Other research suggests that chocolate cravings may also have a strong cultural component. When university students from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania and the Universidad Nacional de Educacion a Distancia in Madrid, Spain, were asked to fill out a questionnaire naming the foods they craved the most, nearly , while only a little more than 25% of Spanish women did. This study, too, argues against any innate biological craving. In Spain chocolate does not loom as large on the culinary landscape as it does here.
8. Are candies made from carob a healthy substitute for chocolate?
Don't let carob confections, often found in health-food stores, fool you. Although carob powder is lower in fat and naturally sweeter than cocoa powder, fat is added to turn carob into candy, so its total fat and calorie counts are usually the same as those for chocolate. The difference: The cocoa butter added to chocolate bars is rich in stearic acid, while any type of fat may be added to carob — including artery-clogging palm kernel oil and coconut oil.
9. Can chocolate trigger migraines?
Chocolate is a commonly cited culprit, but a jointly conducted by the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle supports chocolate's innocence as a headache trigger. Researchers compared the effects of chocolate versus carob (which has a different chemical makeup) by having 63 women who suffer chronic headaches eat a diet free of suspected headache triggers — except that half of them were given chocolate, while the other half were given carob. The results? Chocolate was no more likely to provoke a headache of any kind than was carob.
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