It’s Valentine’s Day so I thought I’d address something that many Americans think of when it comes to this day — chocolate!
Over the years, chocolate has been an indulgent temptress. For those who count their calories and fat grams, savoring chocolate has been a guilty pleasure albeit one worth the occasional bite (or two, or three…)!
Like red wine, chocolate has become less of a bad guy based on findings that have shown its antioxidant qualities (when consumed in moderation). When chocolate’s health benefits were brought to light, the general public celebrated with a little less guilt.
Although anything that contains sugar isn’t “good” for your oral health, according to the Cleveland Clinic, chocolate is an indulgence that can be enjoyed from time to time with less regret than many other sweets. (my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/16774-heart-healthy-benefits-of-chocolate) Here’s why…
Chocolate comes from a cocoa bean, a plant that contains flavonoids.
Flavonoids are also found in other fruits and vegetables and protect and repair the plant from environmental toxins. This gives these plants antioxidant qualities.
When humans consume plants with antioxidants, the body also benefits.
Antioxidants help to filter out pollutants in the air and repair cell damage.
The flavonoids in the cocoa bean are largely of a particular type, known as flavanols. Flavanols are at the top of their game when it comes to antioxidant qualities. In addition to the cocoa bean, flavanols are found in red wine, cranberries, peanuts, apples and tea.
Not only do flavonoids have antioxidant qualities, research shows that flavanols are a benefit to vascular health by helping to lower blood pressure, maintain proper blood flow to the heart and brain, and regulating the clotting process.
However, not all chocolate flavanols are alike. When cocoa is processed from the bean and into the form we love, certain steps can greatly reduce the amount of flavanols.
While dark chocolate was once lauded as being chocked full of flavanols, it is now known that it is the processing from bean to truffle that most affects flavonoid content rather than the level of darkness.
Still, dark chocolate is recommended over milk chocolate as milk chocolate tends to have more fat and sugar. You should also consider the form of your chocolate. When a dark chocolate outer shell is filled with sugary, gooey caramel, the advantages of the flavanols are pretty much cancelled out.
Too, a chocolate ‘kiss’ is fine but ten, not so much. An overload of sugar and fats isn’t good for you in any form. Remember to see chocolate as an occasional pleasure rather than as a health benefit. Because, essentially, it is not.
Remember, your mouth is the first part of your body to endure the bombardment of sugar. Oral bacteria react gleefully when sweets (or carbs) are consumed because sugar provides a ‘super food’ they thrive on. And, no one should give these little critters a boost on growth and accumulation.
While there are no lectures here, especially on Valentine’s Day, we do want you to remember your smile. Know your smile is special to not only you, but others! It deserves your very best, every day!
May this day be filled with many smiles!