Americans love chocolate. In fact, millions of us are admitted "chocoholics." U.S. chocolate consumption is around 3.3 billion pounds per year, according to the National Confectioners Association. That 's nearly 12 pounds for every man, woman and child in the nation.
But for more than 21 million Americans with diabetes, forbidden treats - such as luscious dark chocolate truffles - are not part of a healthy diet. Many of us believe that sinfully sweet indulgences must be unhealthy, especially for diabetics. Or are they?
The good news is that recent clinical studies show some types of chocolates actually have significant health benefits. Dark chocolates, particularly those made with minimal processing, are high in flavonoids, which are plant compounds with potent antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are known to gobble up free radicals - the killer compounds that harm cell membranes, damage the heart, attack DNA, cause aging, and make heart attacks and cancer far more likely.
It may surprise you to know that dark chocolate actually has more antioxidants per gram than red wine, green tea, peanuts, cranberries, apples, and many other fruits and vegetables that also are rich in antioxidants.
One independent study led by Claudio Ferri and researchers at the University of L'Aquila in Italy found that consuming dark chocolate not only lowers blood pressure and cholesterol as some prior studies suggest, but also improves the body 's processing of sugar - and in theory, guards against diabetes. Jeffrey B. Blumberg of Tufts University, who collaborated on the study, says "the new finding suggests that specific flavonoids have beneficial effects on several measures of health."
Dark chocolate contains more flavonoids and less saturated fat than milk chocolate. Cocoa powder and baking chocolate contain even more flavonoids than dark chocolate, while white chocolate has none. The flavonoids in chocolate, by the way, are called flavanols.
Ferri and his colleagues included dark chocolate bars in the diets of 10 volunteers with high blood pressure, and gave 10 others white chocolate bars with no flavanols. The subjects weren't obese, and none gained a significant amount of weight during the five-week study. The volunteers who consumed dark chocolate bars reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, while those given white chocolate experienced no change.
In addition, the dark chocolate group demonstrated accelerated metabolism of blood sugar (glucose), a process that involves the hormone insulin. Impaired insulin function can lead to diabetes. Dark chocolate also lowered cholesterol in hypertensive patients, the researchers reported.
Additional benefits associated with dark chocolate in other studies include improved flexibility of the arteries, which can contribute to lower blood pressure, and reduced stickiness of clot-forming blood platelets, which may reduce the risk of strokes and other problems.
Another study, at the University Hospital of Cologne, Germany, tested the effects of dark chocolate vs. white chocolate on artery hardening and heart disease in smokers. The study 's authors concluded that "...only a small daily treat of dark chocolate may substantially increase the amount of antioxidant intake and beneficially affect vascular health."
Another study done at the University Hospital of Cologne and published in the July 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concluded that consumption of small amounts of dark chocolate was "associated with a lowering of blood pressure, without weight gain or other adverse effects."
"Chocolate is a very remarkable substance with enormously beneficial health properties," says Keith Scott-Mumby, MD, PhD, an internationally recognized expert in diet and nutrition who formulated The Doctor 's Chocolate. His delicious dark chocolate truffles, made with the finest unaltered Swiss dark chocolate and red raspberries, contain zero trans fats and very low total fat. Sweetened by Xylitol, a sugar alcohol that is recognized by the FDA as very safe, each truffle has only 20 calories. "It 's totally safe for diabetics," Dr. Scott-Mumby says.
About the Author
Jan Hrkach is an advocate of health, you are what you eat. Exercise and eating right make a big difference in our daily lives and creates a better you. http://www.thedoctorschocolate.com/
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