Chocolate – superfood or not?

Your favorite chocolate bar may not be the best superfood for you.

You’ve probably heard all the buzz surrounding chocolate being a superfood. Before you stock up on chocolate bars, be sure to do your research.

The cocoa bean is one of the richest foods in flavonols, which is what makes chocolate “good for you.” Flavonols are antioxidants that fight free radicals. According to the Cleveland Clinic, flavonoids have other health properties such as helping to lower blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and making blood platelets less sticky, helping to prevent clotting. Flavonols taste bitter, so the cocoa bean has to be processed to make it more palatable. This processing destroys the flavonols and since products do not disclose how much flavonols their products contain, the consumer is often left to wonder what and how much chocolate is reasonable.

Research shows that about 200 milligrams of flavonols will help improve blood flow. That’s approximately two tablespoons of cocoa powder (20 calories), two ounces of dark chocolate (300 calories), one cup of chocolate syrup (800 calories) or 10.5 ounces of milk chocolate (1,500 calories). So what is your best bet? It all depends on how many calories you are willing to consume to get those 200 milligrams of flavonols.

Keep in mind that there are other foods rich in flavonols such as cranberries, apples, peanuts and onions – to name a few.

Currently there are no guidelines telling consumers how much chocolate to eat, but Michigan State University Extension nutritionists recommend moderation. The Cleveland Clinic recommends eating other foods rich in flavonoids, and that one or two ounces of dark chocolate per week is reasonable.

MSU Extension offers various educational programs that focus on lifestyle changes to promote healthy eating. For more health and nutrition tips visit http://msue.anr.msu.edu/topic/info/food_health.

Be sure to read part two of this article, Chocolate myths and facts.

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