From VOA Learning English, this is the Health Report.
Chocolate. Is it good for our health? Or is it just good? Many experts warn that the sugar in chocolate is not good for us. But doctors point to the healthful qualities of chocolate’s antioxidants.
VOA's George Putic reports that uncooked, organic chocolate may contain the right balance.
The biggest value in eating cocoa and dark chocolate, besides the taste, may be its ability to lower blood pressure. This comes from the rich, comforting, almost decadent, feeling of cocoa butter melting in your mouth.
That happy feeling may also add to chocolate's anti-depressant qualities, says Kim Hoffman. Ms. Hoffman is a dietician, a person who advises people about what to eat to be healthy. She tells how dark chocolate makes us feel better and raises our mood.
“It contains phenethylamines, which is a neurotransmitter that is found in the brain and actually acts as a mood elevator. It also enhances the blood endorphins, which are the happy opiates, and they are basically around when you are on a high.”
Not all chocolate is equal when it comes to those helpful chemicals. The way commercial chocolate makers produce chocolate affects its health benefits.
The high temperatures used in making chocolate, like this chocolate fountain, may remove its health benefits.
First, there is the issue of temperature. The heat required to process commercial chocolate can be as high as 130 degrees centigrade. Some researchers say temperatures that high can actually lower the effectiveness of those beneficial chemicals.
Anthony Grid makes fine chocolates at a store called Honest Chocolate, in Cape Town, South Africa. He keeps the temperature of his raw chocolate below 42 degrees.
The Raw Food Movement
Mr. Grid says that there is a movement in the food world to limit heat when cooking food. Followers of this movement say that high temperatures lower the health benefits of our food.
“There's a movement for minimal cooking or minimal heating of food, just to retain the natural antioxidants or whatever, the minerals or whatever it may be. So cocoa is part of that - you can do it raw, with a very good quality bean.”
Another way chocolate makers decrease its health benefits is by adding sugar. The taste of cocoa is naturally sharp, or bitter. This bitterness comes from an antioxidant in cocoa, a chemical called polyphenol. To reduce cocoa’s bitter taste, makers of chocolate products remove the polyphenol and add sugar.
Adding sugar to chocolate may cut down on bitterness, but it also cuts down on health benefits.
Food science writer Leonie Joubert notes that sugar is connected to weight-related illnesses. Ms. Joubert warns that eating too much sugar leads to many health problems.
“The problem is that overexposure to sugar over a long period of time - it causes this repeated inflammatory response in the body, which now is linked to heart disease. Obviously it's linked to obesity and weight problems and the associated diseases.”
Quality Over Quantity
The chocolates at Honest Chocolate are made with agave nectar, not cane sugar. And they have a very high percentage of cacao. This is something buyer (customer) Jessica Bonin enjoys.
“What I find quite remarkable about their chocolate is that you are not overwhelmed by the sugar so you actually get to taste the chocolate itself, which is really so luxurious and quite decadent.”
Like many other people who know good chocolate when they taste it -- chocolate connoisseurs -- Ms. Bonin satisfies her craving with just one small piece of really good chocolate. In other words, she chooses “quality over quantity.” And this choice is most likely better for her health.
And that’s the Health Report. I’m Anna Matteo.
Words in the News
dietician – n. a person whose job is to give people advice about what to eat in order to be healthy
luxurious – adj. something that is expensive and not necessary (“Luxury,” a noun, is the root word.)
decadent – adj. characterized by or appealing to self-indulgence
connoisseur – n. a person who knows a lot about something (such as art, wine, food, etc.): an expert in a particular subject
crave – v. to have a very strong desire for (something). A craving, a noun, means a strong desire for something
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