Can a Piece of Chocolate a Day Keep the Doctor Away?

As farfetched as this question may sound, studies have shown there may be positive benefits to oral health associated with the regular consumption of chocolate.  The compounds and antioxidants that are most beneficial to one’s health are stored in the husk of the cocoa bean.  When consumed, they can have a myriad of positive effects that stretch far beyond a satisfied sweet tooth.

Chocolate contains a compound called CBH which has been found to help harden tooth enamel, and in some cases has proved more effective than flouride.  The three main antioxidants in chocolate that deliver health benefits are 1) tannins, 2) polyphenols and 3) flavonoids.  Tannins help prevent cavities by inhibiting bacteria from sticking to the teeth, while flavonoids slow the rate of tooth decay.  Polyphenols work to limit the effects of bacteria, which in return can neutralize bad breath.  These antioxidants can also reduce inflammation in the body which can prevent swelling of the gums, or periodontal disease.

That being said, not all chocolate is created equal.  In order to derive any health benefits from the cocoa bean, it is necessary to stick to the dark chocolate variety which contains at least 70% cocoa.

Dark chocolate is produced by adding fat and sugar to cocoa, and unlike milk chocolate, it does not contain milk.  Three to four ounces of dark chocolate per day (containing no more than 6-8 grams per serving) is ideal to reap the benefits of this superfood.  For the more adventurous set, try nibbling on cocoa nibs, nature’s chocolate chips.

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