Is Dark Chocolate an Antioxidant Superfood?

If a complete stranger came up to you in the street and said they had a natural food that could add years to your life, strengthen your immune system, and help you to feel more positive and contented, what would you say?

You would probably be very skeptical! And I would not blame you. If you're like me, you've probably heard it all before. You've heard all the over-hyped and over-inflated claims, so would probably walk on past congratulating yourself that you had not fallen for yet another scam!

Well, I'm that stranger and I definitely do not want you to walk on past! I'm here to tell you that that food really exists and is available to you right now. I'm also here to tell you that the health claims made about it are true, and are backed up by solid scientific research. Somewhat surprisingly, the product I am talking about is – Chocolate!

We tend to view chocolate as a tasty, but basically unhealthy, sweet. We eat it when we are feeling low, give it to our partners on Valentine's Day, and have it as a reward for something well done. But there is always that sense of guilt after we have consumed it – always that feeling that it is not really good for us.

And this is probably true! Most candy bars and chocolate foods found in shops are high in refined white sugar, milk fats, and hydrogenated oils-ingredients that replace the naturally occurring nutrients found in pure chocolate.

Scientists are rediscovering what the ancient Mayans and Aztecs knew centuries ago – that chocolate can be very good for you. It may have been cultured for over two thousand years, but it is only in the last five years or so that we are really beginning to understand the truth behind the health benefits of chocolate.

It seems that chocolate may be as near to being a complete food as we can get – it is perhaps not surprising that the Ancient Mayans referred to it as "The Food Of The Gods".

It's important to remember that what makes chocolate healthy is the chocolate itself! Most modern chocolate confectionary is so processed that its natural goodness is destroyed. In the same way that overcooked vegetables are nutritional waste grounds, so is processed chocolate. So, when we are talking chocolate, we mean dark chocolate that has been processed in a way that preserves its natural goodness.

Chocolate works in many ways to preserve and promote our health. One of its most powerful contributions is in the antioxidants it provides to our body.

The cells of our body are constantly under attack from free-radicals. These have always been around and our body is well equipped to deal with the damage they cause – but the many pollutants and toxins found in our modern world mean that we are facing them in numbers never experienced before.

Free radicals are chemical structures that like to steal electrons from the healthy cells in our body. When an iron post is left unpainted it oxidises – it rusts! That is effectively what free-radicals do to the cells of our body – they corrupt healthy cells and leave disease and degeneration in their wake.

The traditional answer to combating free-radicals is to make sure we eat foods high in antioxidants – if you ever wonder where the five portions of fruit and vegetables come from, then this is it. What is now being understood is that chocolate has one of the highest levels of antioxidants of any naturally occurring food.

Simply eating healthy chocolate may be one of the most effective ways of adding antioxidants to our diet. It will massively boost our body's ability to prevent free radical damage and the many illnesses that are associated with it. Science is still in its infancy in learning about the power of antioxidants, but it looks that the levels of antioxidants in our bodies are one of the best indicators of how long, and how healthily, we will live.

You might want to think about that last sentence! Take the time to read it again – very slowly.

We may be living longer but our old age is usually far from healthy. It has been estimated that over 80% of elderly people have one chronic illness and more than 50% have at least two. Many of these chronic illnesses may be preventable by adding foods high in antioxidants. The more we can eat foods which promote health and fight disease the better – and at the top of the list of such foods is healthy dark chocolate!

Unfortunately this "food" message does not always go down well with the powerful drug companies! They are not into "Health Cure" but "Health Care"! They make their money from managing our "dis-ease" not curing it! So, do not be surprised if the claims made by supporters of healthy chocolate are rubbished in the news – when this happens it should cause you to be more confident in the product. Someone is clearly worried!

So, there you have it. Chocolate is the functional food par excellence. If you believe in being pro-active with your own health, then eating healthy chocolate is one of the simplest, tastiest, and most effective things you can do!