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Although I’ve been on the “chocolate as health food” bandwagon for ages now, I’m glad to see sources like the Journal of Nutrition coming out with verifiable research to back up my wishful thinking. I am, however, disappointed the research didn’t call for larger portions of this necessary and life-sustaining health food. As with most things in life, there’s a “tipping point” where the risks start outweighing the benefits. In this case, the point of healthy consumption is a mere 6 or 7 grams a day. Darn it, that’s only a half a bar per week.

But hey, I’m not complaining. I’ll take 6 grams of dark chocolate over a teaspoon of cod liver oil any day.

The findings, published last month by an Italian university research team, resulted from the largest epidemiological study on chocolate ever conducted in Europe. Leave it to the Italians to figure out that a few grams of high-grade dark chocolate paired with a nice glass of Chianti qualifies as health food. You do know that red wine is good for you, right? (The result of more Italian research and worthy of a separate post. Check back later.)

Thousands of people enrolled in the research project, which focused on several complex mechanisms of inflammation and how they factor into major diseases. This is one study I wouldn’t hesitate to take part in. Testing chocolate as medicine? Yes, count me in.

Lead author of the study, Romina di Giuseppe explains, “We started from the hypothesis that high amounts of antioxidants contained in the cocoa seeds, in particular flavonoids and other kinds of polyphenols, might have beneficial effects on the inflammatory state. Our results have been absolutely encouraging: people having moderate amounts of dark chocolate regularly have significantly lower levels of C-reactive protein in their blood. In other words, their inflammatory state is considerably reduced. The 17% average reduction observed may appear quite small, bit it is enough to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease for 1/3rd in women and 1/4th in men. It is undoubtedly a remarkable outcome.”

Hats off to my favorite Italian researcher and new best friend, Romina.

This study was done with high-quality, 72% or greater cocoa content chocolate bars. Hostess Ding Dongs don’t count. Neither do Mars Bars. Vosges Chocolates (one of my favorites) do, but I’m not sure about Mo’s Bacon Bar (see below). Bacon? Are you serious? Who came up with the idea of mixing bacon with chocolate? That’s a guy thing, it has to be.

Girls prefer the Vosges cardamom, organic walnuts, dried plums, and Venezuelan dark chocolate. Or the dark chocolate and pasilla chillies. Or the chocolate and plantains. Or Ceylon cinnamon, Mexican ancho chili, and dark chocolate. Just thought I’d throw that out in case anyone wants to help me with my preventive health care needs.

One of my local favorites is Chocolove Chocolate, made with love, hugs, and kisses in nearby Boulder, CO.

So there you have it, a chunk of dark chocolate every day may reduce your risk of heart disease and elevate your mood in the process.

Go forth and eat dark chocolate — and savor every 6.4 gram bite.
Melissa
xo

27 Responses to “must-have health food”

  1. Miles says:

    Melissa,
    Great writing, just done as you said and scoffed a chunk of Valrhona 64%.
    You’re the expert, I just do as I’m told :)

    Miles

  2. greedydave says:

    Fantastic post, Melissa. I’m still chuckling here.

    I’m slowly rediscovering my sweet tooth so I’m not really sure what’s out there in the chocolate aisle, but I certainly intend to find out.

    Dave.

  3. Melissa says:

    Miles,

    Thanks for the comment. With the way your week has been going, it sounds like a good dose of dark chocolate is just what you need.

  4. Melissa says:

    Dave,

    Rediscovering your sweet tooth? You mean you lost it for awhile? I can’t imagine.

    :-)

  5. How about if once a week I have my half a bar of dark chocolate with a glass of cabernet sauvignon? I think I’d enjoy that more than the tiny bit of chocolate each day. Okay, I just reread your post and you specifically said the recommended amount was the tiny amount DAILY. Will you come over and dispense it for me to ensure I don’t go over my limit? I need you badly! ;-)

    Shirley

  6. Ooh, I have tried Vosges yet, looks good.

  7. Cid says:

    Melissa,

    I love chocolate and find myself searching out the artisan bars for a treat. While I know the odd square won’t do me much harm, it’s unlikely I’d stop there so for the time being I’m trying to avoid it. Somewhere in my baking drawer is a block of Venezuelan 100% cacao which I grate into recipes instead of cocoa powder. Roll on summer and the promise of scrumptious goodies (in moderation of course :) ).

    Cid

  8. Melissa says:

    Shirley,

    Not being able to stop is a common theme. I understand it well. Sometimes it’s better to just skip it altogether, rather than try to limit your intake. And yes, it’s better to have a little bit every so often rather than all at once. Kind of like the wine thing — 2 or 3 glasses a week are even “recommended” by some researchers, but drinking a bottle all at once isn’t.
    :-)
    As for me dispensing your chocolate for you — I can’t be trusted!

  9. Melissa says:

    Alisa — Vosges is awesome, but doesn’t come cheaply. Their bars are about $8.50 a piece! Worth it though, especially if you keep it refrigerated and stretch it out over a couple of weeks.

  10. Melissa says:

    Cid,

    You’re right and as you can see from the other girlie comments here, women have a hard time knowing when to stop when it comes to chocolate. It must be in our genes — see Dave’s comment above. He’s slowly “rediscovering” his sweet tooth. Does that make any sense to you at all?

    I didn’t think so.

    :-)

  11. Elsie Nean says:

    Melissa,
    Oh dear, you have discovered my weakness. I don’t know whether to put a smiley face here or a sad face?
    I love good continental chocolates and treat myself when over there (and bring some rations back). Whilst I consider myself a generous person, I am quite mean when it comes to sharing these chocolates.
    I agree with Cid, I better not start on them at all or I am done for. Quite pathetic really.
    Elsie

  12. Melissa–I forgot to ask you before … what are your thoughts on maca? One alternative doctor I had raved over it for well being and numerous health improvements. Yet, I see some mixed reviews, much like soy. Thanks, Shirley

  13. greedydave says:

    Haha! Melissa!

    Is this turning into a battle of the sexes? Your comments to Cid were outrageous!

    … still, at least I can park my car straight at the chocolatier. :)

  14. Melissa says:

    Elsie,

    You’re a girl, of course chocolate is a weakness! It’s not mean to be selfish when it comes to high-grade dark chocolate. You can be generous with — oh, say — boiled cabbage or Brussels sprouts. Keep the good stuff to yourself.

  15. Melissa says:

    Shirley,

    I don’t have much of an opinion on maca. I’ve never taken it, but I doubt it’s all it’s cracked up to be (there are some glowing reports out there about it). It’s a cruciferous veggie, like broccoli, so if you have thyroid issues you might want to check with your health care provider before taking concentrated supplements. It’s supposed to balance hormones and increase energy. There’s not a lot of peer reviewed research on it with humans, although some of the animal studies show increased fertility.

    Be careful!

    :-)

  16. Melissa says:

    Dave — look at your casual comment about slowly rediscovering your sweet tooth and compare it to what the women are saying. Totally different thing going on with the chocolate cravings and the sexes.

    Is that a parallel parking challenge you’re making? Hmmm? Is it? Are you suggesting parallel parking is a male-only skill?

    Okay, okay — you’re probably right.

    Elsie, don’t share any chocolate with Dave.

  17. Did the Journal of Nutrition mention anything about conducting a US study on the benefits of chocolate ? I feel pretty strongly that I NEED to take part…
    I have no idea what I would do without chocolate…I am thrilled to see the science is backing up my little indulgence…great and funny post – thanks Melissa !

  18. Elsie Nean says:

    Melissa,
    I would not dream of meeting Dave to give him some chocolate. I might hit his car trying to park :)
    Cabbage is much better for him :)
    Elsie

  19. Melissa says:

    Stephanie,

    I’ll keep you posted if I get a request for participants! I doubt they’d have much trouble finding willing “guinea pigs” for this study.

    Elsie,

    You made it clear right off that you don’t share when it comes to chocolate. Dave’s lost his sweet tooth somewhere anyway. Just ignore him.

    :-)

  20. Lo says:

    Peef will use this post as another excuse for his chocoholism. :) But, that’s OK.

    I think an added benefit of nice, dark, chocolate is that it makes people sweeter. Srsly.

  21. Melissa says:

    Lo — whatever it takes! Sweet is good, whether in a bite of dark chocolate or a man’s attention.

    :-)

  22. ~M says:

    I just subscribed to your blog! Do you know whether both Vosges and Chocolove are gluten-free? Thanks!

  23. Melissa says:

    ~M
    Thanks and welcome! Vosges Caramel Marshmallows, Exotic Caramels, and Wink of the Rabbit Caramels all contain gluten. Watch out for caramels, those are a common source. Chocolove does not use gluten in any of their products, but they state that they can’t guarantee that they are gluten-free because they don’t have them tested. I haven’t been concerned about Chocolove, but you should contact the factory because ingredients do change. At this point, they say no gluten-containing grains are used at all. Hope that helps.

  24. michelle says:

    This has to be my favorite “health food” and I’m with you – I’d take this over cod liver oil any day! Thanks for introducing me to all the vosges flavors, I had no idea they had a bacon bar either! Oregon has a bacon maple doughnut though so don’t totally discount it yet! I love chocolove too so it’s great to learn it comes from Colorado!!

  25. Melissa says:

    Michelle,

    A bacon maple doughnut? That one trumps the bacon chocolate bar! Yes, Chocolove is from Boulder. It’s a great story how the guy started the company. Well, Enstrom’s is from Grand Junction and the dark chocolate toffee stuff is over-the-top good.

    Nice to have you visit!

  26. naomi says:

    Fantastic! I’m ploughing the 100% cocoa content furrow at the moment. I found the most delicious, smooth 100% bar made by a lovely french chocolatier called Francois Pralus – who conches the chocolate for extra time to get the sweetest notes out of the cacao without adding any sugar. Worth the money….. x x x

  27. [...] Dark chocolate details (another off-beat blog post) Carnival of love (okay, my archives are full of quirky posts) [...]

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