We usually talk about fruit here but we wanted to talk about something that is pervasive in workplaces and generally considered a dessert: chocolate. Many recent studies - and chocolate marketing campaigns - have pointed to the potential health benefits of chocolate consumption. But as October’s Berkeley Wellness Letter reports, if you’re eating milk or white chocolate, the benefits are just wishful thinking.
“Healthy” chocolate bars introduced in the last several years by several major chocolate manufacturers overflow in checkout aisles with wrappers proclaiming that their flavonoid compounds promote antioxidant activity. The claims, citing recent research, are that the darker the chocolate, the better it is for you; and if you eat it every day, it’s even better! Yet several studies commissioned to prove the benefits of cocoa flavonoids were largely funded and sponsored by chocolate manufacturers.
A 2004 study conducted by the University of California San Francisco was supplied with chocolate by the American Cocoa Research Institute, the research arm of the Chocolate Manufacturer's Association of America. (The CMAA merged in 2008 with the National Confectioner's Association to form The Chocolate Council). Members of The Chocolate Council currently represent 90 percent of the chocolate processors in the United States. Other potential conflicts of interest in chocolate health benefit studies include Hershey’s sponsorship of a 2005 Yale University research project.
Most of the studies used only cocoa, baking or dark chocolate in amounts as large as 500 calories a day. While we know chocolate tends to boost our mood levels, because most people report feeling happy when they eat it, how do we know which chocolate has the most antioxidants? Much of it depends on the type of cocoa beans used and how it was processed. In general, the more bitter-tasting the bar is, the more likely it is to contain flavonoids.
As mentioned in the Wellness Letter, remember that chocolate is “a treat and not a health food.” Fruits and vegetables - especially dark-colored ones such as blueberries and red grapes - are better sources of flavonoids and have fewer calories and other vitamins and minerals. For a more in-depth analysis of the chocolate question, refer to “Is Your Bar up to Par?”
Remember, all FruitGuys customers can access this great resource on nutrition and wellness by using this month’s password: optimism.