What is Chocolate???

Chocolate is a raw or processed food produced from the seed of the tropical Theobroma cacao tree. Cacao has been cultivated for at least three millennia in Mexico, Central and South America, with its earliest documented use around 1100 BC. The majority of the Mesoamerican people made chocolate beverages, Chocolate has become one of the most popular food types and flavors in the world.

Chocolate as an Antioxidant
Chocolate has two main benefits. Research has focused on its antioxidant properties and its ability to lower blood pressure. The antioxidant action is due to the presence of flavonoids. Flavonoids are the same compounds found in berries, wine, and green tea-other good sources of antioxidants. Antioxidants are important because they help get rid of free radicals, destructive molecules that can play a role in heart disease and other illnesses. A 2006 study published in the Archive of Internal Medicine found that the risk of developing heart disease was 50 percent lower in men who consumed the most cocoa products.

Chocolate and Your Blood Pressure
Do you suffer from high blood pressure? The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that in one study, participants who ate dark chocolate experienced a significant drop in blood pressure. Eating white chocolate had no such positive benefits. One point to consider is that it took only a very small amount of dark chocolate to produce this effect, so there's no excuse for over-indulging.

Making the Most of Your ChocolateMaking the Most of Your Chocolate
These are great health benefits, but in my mind, what's best about chocolate is simply that it tastes good. It can be the perfect end to a meal, a fantastic little pick-me-up, soothing when you're down in the dumps, or a way to set the tone for a celebration. It's also the perfect food to say "I love you". These are all reasons to eat chocolate, whichever kind and whichever way you choose. But if you're looking to cash in on those health benefits, keep these points in mind before you chow down.

  1. Find dark chocolate, or whip up something yummy with cocoa. (Here's a fabulous-looking brownie dessert.)
  2. For the benefit of your waistline, keep your serving size small.
  3. Don't replace healthy foods with chocolate. Try cutting out other sweets instead.