Is Chocolate Healthy? A Look At The Pros And Cons: Dr. Mao's Wellness Living

Sunday, 3 Mar 2013, 9:16:00 AM

Dr. Mao Shing Ni

Dr. Mao Shing Ni
Courtesy Photo
Dr. Mao Shing Ni

If you are a fan, then you will be pleased to know that

chocolate has enjoyed some time in the nutrition spotlight. However, you may

want to think twice before reaching for that candy bar. Despite its health

benefits, chocolate is high in calories. Continue reading to find out how your

body and health can gain the benefits without the pounds.

What Is Chocolate?

Did you ever wonder where chocolate comes from? The

seeds of the cacao tree provided ancient cultures like the Aztecs with

delicious cacao, which they used to make beverages. Cacao beans are first

fermented, dried, and then roasted. Inside the bean you will find cacao nibs,

which produce cacao butter and a dark cocoa mass. Cocoa butter doesn’t contain

any cacao solids, and is what we know to be “white chocolate.” Cocoa, however,

is used in most of the chocolate we consume today. Unsweetened chocolate contains

both cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Milk chocolate contains cocoa powder, cocoa

butter, sugar, and milk powder or condensed milk.

Health Benefits

Until recently, chocolate has mostly been considered to

be unhealthy. However, recent research has demonstrated that cacao is rich in

antioxidants and minerals such as magnesium. Theobromine and phenethylamine are

two compounds in chocolate that are associated with serotonin, the “happy”

chemical. In addition, the Journal of the American Medical Association cites

that dark chocolate lowers blood pressure. The flavanols in chocolate may also

reduce LDL oxidation, inflammation, and improve arterial blood flow. In another

study, a group of adults with chronic fatigue syndrome were given 1.5 ounces of

85 percent cocoa dark chocolate daily for eight weeks. After eight weeks, the

individuals reported less fatigue – and no weight gain.

Choose Chocolate Wisely

Does this mean that you can eat as much chocolate as

your heart and taste buds desire? Well, not exactly, because not all chocolate

is created equal. 

First of all, to reap the full health benefits, you need

to choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate, as the milk may prevent the body

from absorbing the antioxidants. Go for chocolate with at least 72 percent

cocoa, and make sure that it doesn’t contain any partially hydrogenated fat.

Remember, an entire bar of chocolate is not a single serving size! One ounce a

day is plenty.

Also, keep in mind that chocolate with the greatest

amount of nonfat cocoa solids will provide the most antioxidants, while milk

chocolate, chocolate syrup, and white chocolate rank the lowest in flavanoids.

If your chocolate bar develops a white coating on the surface, this indicates

fat and sugar changes. This “bloom” effect may change the flavor and texture,

but it is still considered safe to consume. The lowest calorie and lowest-fat

form of chocolate is unsweetened cocoa. Just three tablespoons contain 60

calories, 1.5 grams of fat, and three grams of fiber.

If you choose a regular candy bar for your sugar

consumption, keep in mind that most milk chocolates have a large amount of

sugar and most of the excess sugar in our diet is stored as fat. This large

amount of sugar can not only affect your risk of diabetes, but also your immune

system and blood pressure. Try to find chocolates that use honey, maple syrup,

or stevia as a sweetener.

May you live long, live strong, and live happy!

Dr. Mao Shing Ni,

best known as Dr. Mao, is a bestselling author, doctor of Oriental Medicine and

board certified anti-aging expert. He has recently appeared on “The Ricki Lake

Show,” “Dr. Oz,” and contributes to Yahoo Health and The Huffington Post. 

Dr. Mao practices acupuncture, nutrition, and Chinese medicine with his

associates at the Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica, Newport Beach, and Pasadena.

Dr. Mao and his brother, Dr. Daoshing Ni, founded the Tao of Wellness more than

25 years ago in addition to founding Yo San University in Marina del Rey. 

To make an appointment for evaluation and treatment please call 310.917.2200 or

you can email Dr. Mao at To subscribe to his

tip-filled newsletter please visit

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