Chocolate's Little Secret Essay

988 words - 4 pages

After a long rainy day, you return home seeking warmth and comfort. As you make yourself a nice, warm cup of hot chocolate, you know it will not only heat your insides but will also satisfy your love of chocolate. Chocolate, whether a cup of hot cocoa or a box of See's Candies, has traditionally been regarded as an indulgence. But contrary to popular belief and thanks to the wonders of modern science, chocolate does have health benefits, which have only recently been revealed.First, although chocolate does contain some fat, the fat in chocolate comes from cocoa butter, "a vegetable fat that is rich in saturated fatty acids" (Shahkhalili 246). Cherri Straus, MPH, states in her article for the Blue Cross of California, "Chocolate contains stearic acid [a saturated fat], which after eaten is converted to oleic acid in the body." Saturated fats have often been viewed as negative and unhealthy for the heart and cardiovascular system. "However," as Francene Steinburg, Ph.D., RD, points out, "stearic acid is an unusual SFA [saturated fatty acid], in that it does not elevate blood cholesterol levels to the same extent as other saturated fatty acids" (216). Steinburg, the Director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics in the Nutrition Department of the University of California Davis, along with her colleagues, writes that "one third of the lipid [which include fatty acids and neutral fats] in cocoa butter is composed of the fat stearic acid, which exerts a neutral cholesterolemic response in humans" (215). Thus the amount of saturated fat found in cocoa butter, and therefore in many kinds of chocolate, is neutral in regards to cholesterol and does not increase cholesterol levels in the arteries. "Oleic acid," Straus further explains, "is a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat" ("Chocolate and Fat"). However, of the many different types of chocolate, milk chocolate contains one of the highest amounts of fat and calories because it is comprised not only of cocoa butter, but also of sugar and milk. On the other hand, cocoa powder is fat-free and is "particularly rich in [...] flavonoids," a type of antioxidant (Steinburg 217). These antioxidants, like those found in red wine, have also been found to be "heart-healthy."Rather than causing high cholesterol, cocoa instead acts as a neutral force on cholesterol. A study at Pennsylvania State University examined eighteen healthy men for twenty-six days while they followed four separate experimental diets, and for another month during which they returned to their habitual diets. The study demonstrates that "experimental diets containing milk chocolate in very high (10 oz./day) or more typical (1.65 oz./day) amounts do not elevate" cholesterol concentrations ("Chocolate and Fat"). The results of this study provide evidence that chocolate does not raise cholesterol, at least in healthy men. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald states, "Although chocolate contains a lot of saturated fat, much of it is stearic acid,...

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