Should I eat chocolate for flavanols?

August 11, 2015 - By 



Chocolate and flavanols

Healthy chocolate sounds too good to be true and chocolate hasn’t quite gained the status of health food yet. Chocolate’s reputation is certainly on the rise, as a growing number of studies suggest that it can be a healthy choice.

The questions here are:

– Are the health benefits of chocolate that some tests have shown entirely due to the flavanol content of the chocolate?

– Are there other ingredients in chocolate which have beneficial health effects?

– What chocolate should I be eating?


Let’s look at what chocolate is:

Firstly, all commercial chocolate has ingredients that add fat, sugar and calories to your diet. Eating these things in excess is never going to be a good idea. It can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Secondly, these ingredients are sometimes of low quality. This is usually (but not always) the case with cheaper brands of chocolate. Sometimes the ingredients are so bad they can lead to other serious diseases including cancer.

Here are some of the dangerous ingredients in some chocolates you should look out for by reading the packaging on your chocolate bar –

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) – this is a chemically refined sugar which can lead to obesity
Partially Hydrogenated Oils- (aka. Trans fat) significant risk of heart disease
Artificial Colours – often contain carcinogens and linked to hyperactivity in children
Artificial Flavours – usually used to hide or disguise the flavour of low quality chocolate
If you see any of these ingredients on a chocolate bar wrapper, don’t buy it.


How do I find quality chocolate?

There are many brands of chocolate out there which are high quality and pose no health risk unless consumed in excess. They all contain cocoa and thus contain flavanols. So in theory at least, you can get some flavanols by eating quality chocolate and especially quality dark chocolate.

A typical 100g bar of dark chocolate contains 55mg of flavanols. A milk chocolate bar of the same size contains 14mg of flavanols. A higher percentage of cacao (cocoa) means a higher amount of flavanols, so look at that information on the wrapper. Look for cacao percentages in excess of 70%.

However, not all cocoas are processed the same way and if you see the words ‘processed with alkali’ on the nutrition label the cocoa will contain very few flavanols. This process is sometimes called ‘Dutching’.

Look for the ‘100% organic’ and ‘Fair Trade’ information on the packaging. This is a great indication of quality.
When it comes to cocoa/chocolate drinks use the same quality criteria to choose your brand. There is also a possibility that heat can negatively affect the flavanols so rather take these drinks cold. You will get some flavanols from these drinks
In summary, quality dark chocolate bars and drinks have become acceptable snacks for health conscious people. They also taste great and will give you some flavanols. Some reports also indicate that eating quality dark chocolate is an effective appetite suppressant, helps in dealing with stress and combats diarrhoea. These effects might also be due to flavanols, but if they are real, who cares? Go ahead and indulge in moderation.


So what is the bad news?

The bad news is that to get any real benefits from cocoa flavanols you need to take them at larger dosages than are readily available from chocolate bars. Studies where real measurable benefits like memory and cognitive function improvements have been observed, have used daily dosages of 500 – 900mg flavanols to achieve these results. You would need to eat at least 10 bars of quality dark chocolate a day to begin to achieve these levels.

To achieve the real benefits that flavanols can offer you need to take a concentrated supplement. This is available now because the technology exists to extract flavanols from raw cacao beans where they are found in the greatest concentrations. Cocoallegro is a cocoa flavanol concentrate.

The Kuna Indian tribe live on the San Blas islands off the coast of Panama. They are a very interesting example of the effects of a high flavanol diet. They drink up to 40 cups a week of a drink made from very slightly processed cocoa beans. They ingest huge quantities of flavanols in this way and exhibit health characteristics which are quite extraordinary.

When Kuna leave the islands and go to mainland Panama where they are deprived of their cocoa drink, they soon fall victim to the diseases and disorders the islanders seem to be immune from. These are same diseases that afflict most westerners as they get older.

The good news is that you can now access cocoa flavanols in high concentrations. Cocoallegro is a very affordable source of concentrated flavanols. (You can also eat a bar of high quality dark chocolate occasionally to celebrate)  🙂 

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Posted In:  Health Benefits