by Ross Walker

Did you consume too much chocolate over the weekend? If so, don't fret!

Not all chocolate is created equal. The real benefit comes from dark chocolate and,in particular, a set of chemicals called flavonoids from the polyphenol set of compounds. These flavonoids come from the seed of the cacao plant, the basic source of chocolate. The more processed the chocolate, i.e. milk chocolate, the less the health benefits.

Recent studies involving various forms of cocoa related products show a reduction in:

1. Stroke – recently at the conference of the American Academy of Neurology, a paper was presented following 44,000 people for a number of years. Those who had a weekly serving of dark chocolate had a 22% reduction in stroke.

A paper from 2008 showed that a small amount of a dark chocolate on a daily basis reduces inflammatory markers in the bloodstream which are commonly associated with the risk for heart disease and cancer but also they showed a reduction in blood pressure, coronary plaque formation and improved blood flow. An added benefit was also a minor degree of thinning of the blood.

But, these effects were only demonstrated with chocolate based products that were high in cocoa solids, (preferably 70% or greater and only in low doses). Also, it is important to state that the benefits were only small. The best cocoa solid is natural, unsweetened cocoa powder and second is the bittersweet or semi sweet dark chocolate (preferably with the 70% mark on the packet).

The Walker suggested dose is one small square on a daily basis, which equates to a half a 100gram bar per week.

But, don’t forget the fat and sugar content of chocolate. Chocolate is around one third fat and 50% sugar. So, your average 50 gram chocolate bar is 15 grams of fat and 25 grams of sugar which adds up to 264 calories.

That is almost a brisk half an hour walk to burn off that amount of calories.

So, the next time you hear that chocolate is a health food, remember that not all chocolate is created equal.