July 18, 2012

Chocolate Is Good For You — Again

The good news about chocolate just keeps melting in. This week, the august European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) gave the nod to Barry Callebaut, the world’s largest chocolate manufacturer, allowing them to claim that cocoa flavanols are good for blood circulation. I wish I could fly to Zurich, the headquarters of Barry Callebaut, to offer my personal congratulations, and to ask for as many samples as they are willing to hand out to a weary traveler. And as long as I was there, I’d also conduct a personal investigation to try to figure out what it is about the Swiss that makes them the world’s whizzes in a trio of seemingly disconnected enterprises: precision watches, secret bank accounts, and divine chocolate. Perhaps the secret link is hidden away in a dossier in a Swiss bank vault, surrounded by priceless specimens of chocolate.

Untold millions of dollars have been invested in the tasty academic discipline of chocolate studies. Happily, each of them has proven an additional health benefit, making dark chocolate pretty darned near a health food. It boosts levels of antioxidants, which in turn gobble up free radicals. And if there’s one thing I think we can all agree on, it’s that there are too many radicals running free. It releases those feel-good endorphins, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, and now, is known to potentially improve blood circulation. And, while nobody is saying this publicly, eating adequate levels of dark chocolate will keep us from getting too skinny, and therefore less fun to hug. Really, is there anything this superfood cannot do? Thankfully, nobody is throwing good money away trying to prove anything beneficial about milk chocolate, that pasty imposter. Talk about a waste of calories!

Always ahead of the curve in these matters, I have been insuring my own healthy heart and cholesterol levels for years by beginning my day with dark, semi-sweet morsels with breakfast, the perfect complement to my highly charged cup of coffee. And isn’t it delightful that the good news about caffeinated coffee also continues to percolate? Just this week, a new study showed that drinking up to four cups of caffeinated coffee a day could help prevent heart failure. I always knew coffee and chocolate were a winning health team, and I didn’t even go to medical school. I’m sure apples are still good for you, too. But why not bolster their health impact by baking an apple cake riveted with dark chocolate chunks?

Frankly, I think the first 100 studies that revealed dark chocolate’s power to lower blood pressure and cholesterol should have removed all doubt. Maybe people suspected that something that tasted that good couldn’t possibly be good for you. But nobody suspects that about the perfect summer peach, so why was chocolate always suspect? Too bad that money that was lavished on redundant studies couldn’t have been used instead been used to pay for chocolate subsidies — not for manufacturers, but for the common citizen, who could apply those subsidies to upgrade from Hersey bars to Godiva. (Notice that the first three letters of Godiva spell GOD — the only Manufacturer who could have created something so magically delicious.)

The only bad news, for me anyway, is that drinking milk with your dark chocolate can negate some of these other health benefits. Sadly, this means that chocolate chip ice cream may be less of a healthy choice than I have convinced myself it was. But I can work around this, if need be, even if it means I begin experimenting with soy milk at breakfast.

Imagine how healthy I’ll be with my chocolate, soy milk and coffee, perhaps a trio that will one day be revealed as the elixir of youth. Heck, even if it isn’t, those feel-good endorphins in the chocolate and the power surge from the coffee will make me feel invincible – at least for the first few hours of the day. 


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