Chocolate and your health

August 21, 2012 BY: LISA

Chocolate’s in the news again!

A new research article has been released touting the benefits of cocoa products, which include dark chocolate, stating that they can cause a modest decrease in blood pressure when taken daily for short periods of time.

The short term studies available showed that eating cocoa products daily could decrease your blood pressure by 2-3mmHg and concluded that it may be a useful complementary therapy to assist blood pressure lowering.

The paper did highlight the need for more research as what we don’t know is:

  • Do similar benefits occur after long term daily use?
  • Does eating cocoa products daily actually translate to a decrease in heart attacks or strokes? (these can be the  end points of uncontrolled high blood pressure)
  • Are there any negative health effects of daily consumption of cocoa products in the long term?

The National Heart Foundation spokesperson, Rob Grenfel, commented in The Australian newspaper that he was skeptical of these results and that eating chocolate was not a way to improve health as it was also associated with high saturated fat and high sugar which are not beneficial to health.

My take:

What we do know is that you can achieve modest reductions in blood pressure by:

  • Regular exercise
  • Weight loss
  • Decreasing salt in the diet

These 3 options also decrease risk factors for other diseases so you can be sure that you will not suffer any adverse affects from physical activity, eating well and decreasing salt in your diet.

However, chocolate and other foods which may be high in saturated fat or sugar are part of life- particularly if you feel you can’t live without them.

My advice is to recognise that you need a plan to manage the chocolate in your life. It’s important to include it in a healthy diet, as a healthy diet is one that you can keep up forever. Now, if you’re a chocolate lover then forever without chocolate is a long time!

The plan needs to manage both your food desires and your health desires.

Once again it’s all about balance. There are a lot of foods that have health benefits but expecting just one food to do everything is unreasonable.

What I don’t recommend:

  • Don’t start eating dark chocolate if you don’t like it!
  • Eating sugar free, fat free etc… chocolate instead of the stuff you like.

If you like it, great have a small amount occasionally – one square every day if that is what you need.

Remember something is special when it doesn’t happen all the time. If it happens all the time it is no longer special.

Enjoy!

Lisa Renn

Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD)

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