Chocolate: is it really good for our health?
Cocoa beans - from which chocolate is made - are believed to contain more than 300 compounds that are beneficial to health.
They are packed full of flavanoids and flavanols, such as anthocyanidin and epicatechins. These are antioxidants, which are known to destroy free radicals in the body - chemicals that can cause damage to DNA and other cell components, accelerating aging and contributing to heart disease, cancer and other diseases. The darker the chocolate, the more flavanoids and flavanols it contains, which explains why the majority of chocolate studies have hailed dark chocolate - rather than milk or white - for its health benefits.
Cocoa beans also contain dopamine, phenylethylamine and serotonin, all of which are compounds that are known to enhance mood and promote feelings of well-being.
So if the main ingredient in chocolate is full of healthy compounds, why shouldn't we eat it by the bucketload?
Put simply, the negative health effects of chocolate primarily come from the additional ingredients that are added to it during the commercial manufacturing process. Sugar, full-fat cream and milk are just some of these ingredients, and the quantities in which they are added are not slight.
A standard 43 g bar of Hershey's milk chocolate contains 13 g of fat, 24 g of sugar and 210 calories. Eating this product in high quantities could lead to weight gain, and being overweight can increase the risk of numerous health problems, including hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.
Because of its high sugar content, chocolate may also raise the risk of dental problems - including gum disease and cavities - if consumed in high amounts.
Referring back to the Heart study, however, researchers claim that participants who consumed up to 100 g of chocolate a day were at lower risk of stroke and heart disease. This is an amount the equivalent to more than two Hershey's milk chocolate bars each day, which would take a person well above the recommended daily sugar intake of 25 g for woman and 37.5 g for men.