Dental and Health Benefits of Chocolate
“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
– Charles Schultz
Most of us would consider a few Hershey’s Kisses or a handful of M & M’s an indulgence but did you know eating dark chocolate might benefit your dental health?
The cacao plant is rich in flavanols, a phytochemical found in tea, grapes, grapefruit and wine. However, some types of chocolate contain more antioxidants than others, depending on the amount of nonfat cocoa solids.
Dark chocolate is high in tannins, which contribute to the bitter flavor and dark color, polyphenols, and flavanoids, all of which may provide some protection against tooth decay. Tannins may prevent bacteria from sticking to the teeth. Polyphenols neutralize bacteria. Flavanoids may slow the progression of tooth decay.
The antioxidants in dark chocolate may also reduce inflammation, a factor in periodontal or gum disease and cardiovascular disease.
Research has indicated that regularly consuming one ounce of dark chocolate may lower risk for stroke, diabetes, and heart attacks.
Does this mean you should grab a handful of M & M’s or a chocolate bar each day? Not all chocolate is created equal! Chocolate products with higher levels of nonfat cocoa solids will have more antioxidants. Look for chocolate with at least 70% cocoa. Chocolate products may also have added sugar and unhealthy fats including milk fat, partially hydrogenated oil or even coconut or palm oil.
Natural cocoa powder (not Dutch cocoa, which is alkalized) has the highest amount of flavanoids. The second highest is unsweetened baking chocolate, followed by dark chocolate and semisweet chips. Milk chocolate and chocolate syrup provide the lowest amount of antioxidants.
For the maximum benefits, add a square of 70% or higher dark chocolate or even a cup of cocoa to our daily diet but be sure to balance the extra calories with the rest of your daily diet!