Eat chocolate on Valentine’s Day; It’s good for you
You’ve likely heard that chocolate — especially dark chocolate — is good for you, but maybe you didn’t get the whole story on why and what kind is best. A big part of the reason that chocolate is promoted as a healthy food is because of the extraordinarily high levels of antioxidants contained in cocoa. In fact, it is one of the highest ranked foods in terms of ORAC value. This is the designation given for a food to absorb oxidizing free radicals. It stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbency Capacity.
Here are some other foods that you likely heard were good for you because of their ability to absorb free radicals and thus spare your body damage from aging or carcinogens. Fresh broccoli for example, has 890 ORAC units per 100 grams (about three ounces). Kale has 1,770 per 100 gm. Blueberries have 2,400. Milk chocolate has 6,740. Dark chocolate has 13,120 ORAC units per 100 gm!
Now, the thing with milk chocolate is that is contains lactose — a milk sugar — and lactose prevents complete or even adequate absorption of antioxidant nutrients. So dark chocolate is by far the best source. If you go even less refined than grabbing for a bar of chocolate and go right to the crushed “nibs” of cocoa, you get a whopping 95,000 ORAC units per 100 gm. The nice thing about “nibs” is that there is no added sugar, either.
Dark chocolate and nibs also contain significant magnesium, phosphorus and calcium. These are nutrients well know to support bone health but also nerve health. In line with that, we can point to the fact that chocolate contains theobromines which act as subtle mood elevators.
The fat in chocolate is cocoa butter, which has a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels because it is comprised mostly of stearic and oleic acid. Although stearic acid is a saturated fat, it does not raise blood cholesterol. Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fat that may reduce blood cholesterol.
On Kaua‘i we have our very own local organic chocolate producer. The farm not only acts as a research facility for international agricultural research but also as a nursery to truly promote island-wide sustainable farming. On Steelgrass Farm, located close to Kapa‘a, the Lydgate family produces organic chocolate, vanilla and honey. They have tours where you can experience a morning of education, fun, extensive tastings of their products and gain a greater understanding of sustainable farming.
Hawai‘i is the only state that produces chocolate, and Kaua‘i does it right. You can call to reserve a spot on the tour at 821-1857 or visit the website at www.steelgrass.org to buy the best right here at home.
• Jane Riley, B.A., C.P.T, C.N.A., can be reached at 212-1451 or www.janerileyfitness.com.