If it tastes good, it must be bad for you, right? Of course, anything eaten in excess can add weight (have you heard that dinner plates today hold 25% more food than they did 15 years ago?), including peaches, pecans, or pumpernickel.
But here’s the good news: Chocolate itself does not make you fat. In fact, research shows that people who eat chocolate tend to have a lower body mass index than people who don’t.
Many of us tend to think of chocolate as junk food, but that is a misconception. Chocolate comes from fruit; it is made from the seed of the fruit of the cocoa tree – so you could say it grows on trees. Most of the fat in the American diet comes from animal products. Also, cocoa beans themselves are quite bitter, and chocolate contains no sugar until we add it. The Olmecs, Mayans, and Aztecs drank chocolate, not with sugar, but with chilis. Most of the sugar we consume in the U.S. comes from sugary beverages, baked goods, and frozen desserts such as ice cream.
Milk chocolate contains milk and sugar, so if you’re interested in avoiding or cutting down on those ingredients, develop a taste for rich, satisfying dark chocolate, to which little sugar has been added. (Believe me, dark chocolate is easy to fall in love with!)
|From ABC News: “Dark Chocolate and 5 Other Not-So-Guilty Pleasures”|
More good news: the cocoa butter in premium quality chocolate (not commercial or highly processed chocolate) is similar to olive oil, which does not raise bad cholesterol and may even have a positive cholesterol effect. And, while we’re on the subject of cocoa butter and health, chocolate does not promote tooth decay, and indeed the cocoa butter and other natural ingredients in chocolate even appear to rinse away plaque and promote a healthy mouth.
Nor does chocolate cause acne. Studies have confirmed this, and in fact chocolate contains antioxidants that are good for the skin and heart. And of course chocolate is good for the mood! It is now generally thought that people who swear that chocolate causes them to break out are probably having a reaction to the milk or other additives. Again, try a nice piece of artisan, dark chocolate if you want to avoid other ingredients.
When people ask me how I stay svelte while running a chocolate tour company (thank you for the compliment!), I smile and say that chocolate is a fruit, and that my chocolate tour is a walking tour! Stick with artisan – not commercial – chocolate, and you’re sticking with premium ingredients. Chocolate is compatible with a healthy lifestyle – keep eating chocolate!
Valerie Beck is the founder and CEO of Chicago Chocolate Tours, Philadelphia Chocolate Tours, and Boston Chocolate Walking Tours. She has been an avid artisanal chocolate enthusiast and connoisseur for nearly 25 years.