Chocolate: a sinful treat or healthful addition to your diet

Published 9:58 am Friday, August 19, 2011

Over the years, some of my clients didn’t really have much of a taste for chocolate, while other clients would bleed Hershey if you cut them.

During nutritional consultations, I’m often asked whether chocolate is good or bad for you. The answer can be “both.”

First, I’ll explain some of the benefits of chocolate, then some of it’s detrimental effects.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Chocolate can be good for you because it’s rich in antioxidants, more specifically, “polyphenols.”

These antioxidants may help prevent heart disease and cancers. Chocolate also raises serotonin levels in the brain, thereby elevating mood.

While chocolate does contain saturated fats, most of the saturated fat is made up of mostly something called stearic acid. Stearic acid doesn’t raise blood cholesterol levels the way other saturated fats do.

Chocolate contains the chemical “Xanthine,” which stimulates the central nervous system and relaxes the bronchi in the lungs. It also relaxes blood vessels.

Chocolate may also reduce the effectiveness of platelets, which are a component of blood, that’s involved in the clotting process. This may help prevent heart attacks and stroke.

Chocolate contains the chemical, “Phenylethylamine,” which is very similar to “amphetamine.” Amphetamine is a psychostimulant drug that produces increased wakefulness and focus, while decreasing fatigue and appetite. Also, it seems phenylethylamine (PEA) produces the same feelings one often experiences when falling in love.

These are some of the good things about chocolate. Now let’s go over some of the things about chocolate that aren’t so good.

Chocolate does contain other saturated fats like palmitic acid and coco butter. These do raise blood cholesterol levels. Also, chocolate contains a high number of calories.

The sugar in chocolate can also fuel that sweet tooth, and increase the desire for other high calorie sweet foods.

Chocolate contains substances called oxalates, which can contribute to the formation of kidney stones.

My advice to consumers is moderation. It’s okay to eat chocolate, but only in small amounts.

Also, choose more dark chocolate, because it not only has more antioxidants, but since its coco level is higher, it’s sugar level is lower.

I don’t recommend eating chocolate in the morning, because if you have something sweet first thing, you might crave sweets all day.

Use these tips to truly enjoy the guilt free chocolate experience.

If there is another a subject you’d like to explore, feel free to contact me at, or visit

David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist for 24 years. He served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., head strength coach to the S.C. state champion girls gymnastic team,  USC-Spartanburg baseball team, Converse college equestrian team, lead trainer to L.H. Fields modeling agency, and taught four semesters at USC-Union. David was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.