Posted in Kafevend Blog
For those of you in possession of a particularly sweet tooth who have already worked their way through their Christmas chocolate, we commend you! To those of you who take a little longer (or will manage to keep it going until Easter, when you are inundated with even more of the stuff), don't worry- not only do we understand your arduous, yet delicious, trial, it's possible that there might even be some health boons to be found in your chocolate bar.
It's probably a good idea to explain before we go any further that the scientific world isn't yet certain how chocolate affects us. Research is ongoing into the potential benefits- and negatives- of eating chocolate, along with a host of other items including our other favourites tea and coffee. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that any potential benefits you might be receiving from chocolate could be outweighed if you pig out on it too much- chocolate can contain an awful lot of fat and sugar! The other thing to remember is that you will get the most out of chocolate if it is dark- this means more cocoa-y goodness and less of that fat and sugar. With all that aside, what could chocolate be doing for you?
One of the major components found in chocolate is a chemical compound called theobromine, named after the plant itself- theobroma cacao, the food of the gods. Interestingly, theobromine is similar in its makeup to caffeine and therefore has similar effects, albeit to a lesser extent in theobromine's case. Theobromine appears to help lower blood pressure, thanks to working as a vasodilator, a heart stimulant and a diuretic (which has the side effect of helping to combat hypertension). This is good news for those suffering with high blood pressure, as your doctor might recommend incorporating a little dark chocolate into your diet. As a quick aside, it's very important that you don't give regular chocolate to your pets and other animals. Dogs in particular are not good at metabolizing theobromine and can be poisoned by it- keep it to yourself!
The other substances found in chocolate that might be useful are polyphenols, though these are even less well known about than theobromine. There are a wide variety of polyphenols, so there is plenty of research to be done. Potentially polyphenols have carcinogenic and antioxidant properties, along with possible effects on our cardiovascular health. One of the issues flagged up however is that there isn't a very high absorption rate in the body, meaning most are passed back out of the system as waste. Potenially of course, polyphenols might turn our skin green and grow ears on the back of our hands, so maybe that low absorption is doing us a favour.
So whilst you polish off the last of your Christmas chocolate, you can at least sleep easy knowing it (might just possibly, science permitting, only in small amounts, but maybe not) be good for you!