Healthy Beginnings

The pros and cons of consuming chocolate on Valentine’s Day

Not all chocolates are beneficial. The rule is “bitter is better.”

It’s another busy holiday for good old cupid, as he shoots his arrows toward the hearts of lovebirds on Valentine’s Day. Not only is he hitting his mark, but he is also on target in piercing our pockets.

Marketresearch.com noted that Valentine’s Day 2016 generated a total spending of $19.7 billion, with 47.5% of that money being spent on candy as gifts. In addition to that, 81% of Americans admitted they ate chocolate, and 58 million pounds of it were purchased during that week alone. Usually, the chocolates come in the shape of little hearts to symbolize the love and affection between two people.

On any given day, chocolate has been noted as the most craved food in the world, proving its popularity all year long. The love for chocolate comes from its sweet, creamy taste, which remedies this craving for nearly everyone’s palate as they gobble it up to their heart’s content.

On the flip side, we all know that candy of any kind, including chocolate, is also the dentist’s number one enemy in relation to the formation of cavities.

It can be a double-edged sword, but where does chocolate stand really on the health perspective of things? Let us dig deeper into the truth behind our favorite Valentine’s gift.

Cocoa, which is the primary ingredient of chocolates, comes from beans. By itself it has the ability to dilate our arteries due to the increase release of nitric oxide and antioxidant effects of the flavonols and phytonutrients it contains, according to a 2014 article in the “Scottish Medical Journal.”

One teaspoon of the powder form alone can produce this effect within 1 to 2 hours of consumption, thus improving the blood flow in the vessels specifically in the heart (lowers plaque formation), the legs (relieving the symptoms of peripheral arterial disease), the retina in the eyes, the kidneys and the brain (lowering the risk of strokes), according to a 2012 article in the medical journal, “Neurology,” as well as a 2007 article in the journal, “Circulation.”

In general, it lowers the blood pressure and bad cholesterol, increases the good cholesterol (almost comparable to the effects of exercise), supports the immune system and has been noted for its anti-aging effects, per the 2009 article, “Cocoa and Cardiovascular Health,” in the journal, “Circulation.”

The American Heart Association even recommends cocoa bean solids and powder for these specific purposes. An even better option would be getting nut and cocoa combinations, for together they pile up the antioxidant and phytonutrients for us.

From this description, it sounds as though chocolate is the ultimate superfood for our health woes — until we dig a little deeper.

Unfortunately, the commercial chocolate that we buy on the market is now a hybrid of not only cocoa, but also milk and butter fat. The cocoa being used is also processed and packaged, stripping off the bitterness, flavonols and phytonutrients (a good example would be Dutch-processed cocoa), according to 1998 article in the “Journal of Vascular Surgery.”

Milk, whether it is mixed in with the cocoa or drank separately, actually reduces the antioxidant effects of the contained phytonutrients. Added sugar also acts directly to lower healthy arterial function.

Even the dairy-free chocolate is not recommended, for it contains sugar and saturated cocoa butter, which is fat that can increase cholesterol levels, according to the 2011 article, “The Benefits of Chocolate for the Cardiovascular System,” in the journal, “Current Hypertension Report.”

Due to this, having “a chocolate habit” has been proven to lead to long-term weight gain, according to a 2010 article in the “American Journal of Hypertension.”

As we can conclude, not all chocolates are beneficial. The rule is “bitter is better.” When we taste bitterness, it means that the flavonols are fully intact for our bodies to utilize.

Thus, sugar-free versions are the ones we should consume to maximize cocoa’s health benefit.

Here at BIHCI, our dietary guidance protocols, IV infusions (such as chelation and bio-oxidation therapy), natural supplementation (such as resveratrol and berberine) and acupuncture techniques will assist you in keeping a robust heart filled with love that will beat a lifetime for more Valentine’s days to come!

Melvin Ibarra Nario, M.D., H.M.D., is among the physicians who work at Bio Integrative Health Center International in Reno. Visit bihcireno.com or call 775-827-6696 to learn more. *To view the unedited version of this article, please visit bihcireno.com.