Good news. Research says you can have
your cake and eat it, too. As long as that cake is chocolate.
For centuries, chocolate has been
used to treat diseases and maladies such as depression.
Civilizations from Mexico to Europe have hailed chocolate as an
aphrodisiac. The U.S. government officially recognized its virtues
in World War II, making the chocolate candy bar standard issue for
Chocolate's scientific name,
theobroma cacao, is literally translated as "food of the
gods," and we chocolate cravers don't need any studies to tell
us the power of chocolate in mood alteration. Its feel good
chemicals have long been associated with feelings of love, safety,
and comfort. Maybe that's why Americans eat an average of 12 pounds
of chocolate per year.
Chocolate contains vitamins A, B1, C,
D, and E, as well as potassium, sodium, iron, and fluorine. Now,
researchers say those creamy chocolate confections may actually help
us live longer, too.
Harvard researchers tracked nearly
8,000 males, with an average age of 65. Those men who enjoyed
chocolate and candy lived almost a year longer than those who did
not. Those who ate one to three candy bars per month had a 36
percent lower risk of death (compared to the people who ate no
candy), while those who ate three or more candy bars per week had a
16 percent lower risk.
Why? The researchers say they don't
know for sure, but that it might have something to do with
antioxidants. Chocolate contains the same antioxidant chemicals as
wine (phenols). In the chocolate bar, phenols help preserve the fat.
In our bodies, phenol can help prevent atherosclerosis.
Like anything, chocolate is best
enjoyed in moderation. Just one ounce of solid chocolate packs about
150 calories and can be as much as 50 percent fat. So, for your next
chocolate fix, consider reduced fat alternatives, such as chocolate
covered foods or chocolate syrup.