Good quality dark chocolate is one of my favorite foods, if not my absolute favorite. I nibble on a little at a time because I love it so much, but I also don't like going overboard on it. When I was a preteen, I remember being told that chocolate will give me acne. What twelve year old wants to hear that? But the truth is, this is not the case with real, good quality chocolate. I'm here to bust some chocolate myths and convince you to buy the good stuff this Valentine's Day.
Did you know that the scientific name for chocolate is Theobroma cacao? This roughly translates to "food of the gods." So if it's good enough for Zeus, Hera and all the other deities, then it's good enough for you.
Ancient civilizations, such as the Mayans and Aztecs, attributed chocolate to magical healing powers. Cassanova used it as an aphrodisiac to charm the ladies. It still works in this way. Well, the good stuff does anyway.
Unfortunately, there's a lot of junk chocolate being sold. If I'm going to consume chocolate, I don't want to consume it with junk ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and soy fillers. Gross! Certain low quality chocolate brands have given chocolate a bad reputation. But the good stuff won't cause acne in teens. In fact, it may actually have quite a few health benefits. So let's bust some myths about it, shall we?
Myth 1: Chocolate Contains Loads of Caffeine
Chocolate does contain some caffeine, but not enough to make you jittery like a cup or two of coffee can do. Of course, the darker the chocolate, the more caffeine it will have. So don't consume too much before bed. But also, don't worry too much about the caffeine content unless you know you are extra sensitive to this compound. A good quality dark chocolate still only contains about 20% the amount of caffeine as one cup of coffee.
Myth 2: Chocolate Doesn't Have Any Nutritional Value
False! But also this depends on the brand and cocoa percentage you consume. The good stuff is full of antioxidants, such as cocoa flavanols, which may help to boost cognitive performance, attention to detail and overall memory capacity. Cacao is also a good source of stearic acid, a good for you saturated fat that has been shown to help raise HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol.
Myth 3: Chocolate Can Contribute to Acne
I remember reading this myth in a teen magazine when I was in middle school. There have been numerous studies conducted to prove this. However, no link to chocolate and acne has been found. Now, of course if you are eating the low quality kind made with corn syrup and conventional milk, it's possible that it can contribute to acne. But that contribution cannot be blamed on the cacao itself. So go ahead and eat the good stuff. No need to worry about developing pimples from chocolate.
Myth 4: Chocolate Contributes to Weight Gain
Consuming too many sweets in addition to other junk foods will contribute to a larger waistline. However, just nibbling on some dark chocolate every now and then will not make you gain weight. Actually, there have been some studies (such as this one) that found the opposite to be true. People who replaced typical desserts with some dark chocolate actually saw a decrease in weight. Of course, if you're eating low quality chocolate that hardly contains any cacao content, then you may not be doing your waistline any favors. Opt for dark chocolate from good sources that don't use junk fillers.
Myth 5: People with Diabetes Cannot Consume Chocolate
If you are diabetic, double check with your doctor about this one. Everyone is different, and different people have different bioindividual needs. However, for the most part, there is no set rule stating that once you are diagnosed with diabetes you must give up chocolate. Good quality dark chocolate actually has a lower glycemic index and may be a better choice for those who crave a sweet treat. It's a far better option that a piece of cake or a hot fudge sundae. Some studies have even linked dark chocolate to improved insulin sensitivity thanks to its antioxidant and stearic acid content (see myth 2 above).
You will not see me eating the low quality stuff. My favorite chocolate bars come from brands such as Alter Eco, Theo and Hu Kitchen. The good stuff may cost more, but to me, it's worth it to pay more for better quality ingredients.
On a side note, if you're ever in the Seattle area, one fun touristy thing to do is tour the Theo Chocolate Factory. I've done this twice now and I've enjoyed it each time. They give some education about sourcing good quality cacao as well as showing you how their bars are made. One of the best parts is the free samples (though this was pre-Covid, so who knows if they allow tours or give out free samples right now).
I hope you get a chance to enjoy some good quality dark chocolate this Valentine's Day! No need to worry about silly myths if you're doing it right.