Is chocolate (cocoa) good or bad for health?
Research has even backed up some of the more bizarre health benefits that have been ascribed to cocoa. The Mayans used chocolate powder to relieve the runs, and in the last decade, researchers have identified possible diarrhea-blocking chemicals in chocolate. But as for prescribing cocoa to combat syphilis sores, Victorian-era doctors probably missed the mark.
“(Chocolate) is a good antioxidant. It has a good effect on inflammation. We think most of the beneficial effects are because of this,” said Dr. Owais Khawaja, a cardiology fellow at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo, Ohio. These benefits might include reducing the risk of cancer and dementia, Khawaja said.
However, not all chocolate is created equal. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power of chocolate is thought to come from a class of plant nutrients found in cocoa beans called flavonoids. Dark chocolate has more of these than milk chocolate, and white chocolate — which does not actually contain chocolate — is not a good source of flavonoids.
Even a chocolate bar that is 70% cocoa, generally considered dark chocolate, can have varying levels of flavonoid compounds, depending on how it was processed. For example, chocolate that has gone through a chemical step known as dutching, also known as Dutch chocolate, has essentially lost all traces of these compounds.