For those of us who have celebrated our 29th birthday multiple times, recent reports of health benefits from eating chocolate may make aging more palatable – pun intended. While chocolate is unlikely to become the sixth food group on MyPlate (www.ChooseMyPlate.gov), numerous studies have identified health benefits linked to eating this decadent treat, a favorite to many. Though it may sound odd, the consumption of chocolate has been associated with several health benefits, including:
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Better brain performance
- Reduced risk of stroke
- Better renal (kidney) function
- Lower Body Mass Index (BMI)
Researchers attribute these health benefits to a high concentration of flavonoids in certain types of chocolate. Flavonoids are rich in antioxidants, such as those found in apples, green tea and even red wine. Before indulging, it is important to know that not all types of chocolate are potentially beneficial. Dark chocolate is considered the best due to higher cocoa content. Likewise, there are few if any health benefits associated with eating white chocolate.
In its purest form, chocolate is bitter and foul-tasting; therefore, sugar and fat are added to make it sweet and smooth. Because most types of chocolates are highly processed and include nuts, caramel and other fillers, they tend to be high in saturated fats and loaded with sugar. Additionally, the milk in milk chocolate is reported to interfere with the absorption of antioxidants. What makes dark chocolate the best is the higher concentration of natural antioxidants due to the least amount of processing.
According the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association), the quality and quantity of a person’s diet plays a major role in preventing, delaying, and managing chronic illnesses associated with aging; therefore, it’s important to indulge in moderation. For those who crave chocolate, experts suggest eating no more than 2 oz. (a standard size chocolate bar) of dark chocolate a day to maximize health benefits.
With any food or candy, it is important to read the Nutritional Facts on the packaging. Many of our favorite foods, especially processed ones, are often high in calories, fat, sodium and carbohydrates, and sugar is frequently one of the top five ingredients.
At Home Helpers, we understand that growing older increases nutritional risk. “Due to aging, illness and injury, many people are unable to manage their own nutrition,” said Sam Sellers, president of Home Helpers. “Findings from research indicate over 80% of older people are not eating a good quality diet. Having someone to help with meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning up the kitchen can help ensure adequate nutrition.”
At Home Helpers, in addition to making life easier, we strive to add to our clients’ quality of life. We provide companionship to people who might otherwise be alone, help with meals, transportation and more. We can even take clients shopping for chocolate or wishing to splurge on a hot fudge sundae at the local ice cream parlor, helping them to enjoy each and every day just a little more.
NOTE: For people with pets, be sure to keep chocolate out of reach. Last year, there were more than 100,000 reported cases of pet poisoning; in many of which chocolate was a factor.