As we enter the New Year and are coming up on Valentine's day pretty soon, let's consider the benefits of chocolate. Simply stated, chocolate can make you feel better. The reason probably that chocolate may trigger the release of endorphins, so called brain chemicals that provide a feeling of calm relaxation and reduced stress and pain. These are natural opioids that nature has given us to deal with stress. Chocolate is also full of antioxidants like red wine and blueberries. Accordingly, it provides a defense against air pollution, smoking and ultra violet radiation. Weight for weight, chocolate has twice the antioxidants of blueberries. Dark chocolate has five times as many, and white chocolate does not have this same protective value.
Chocolate also raises good cholesterol, known as HDL, but doesn't raise the bad cholesterol, known as LDL. It is thought to guard against stroke and heart attack by opposing clotting factors very much like aspirin does.
Chocolate certainly tastes a lot better than aspirin and is probably better for you. Chocolate milk, chocolate pudding or chocolate ice cream cones. Why not benefit from nature's remedy which comes from cocoa? Hershey bar, anyone?
I'll be in touch next month.
Thomas Petty, MD