As much as we all love to savour our favourite chocolate, we have reservations about how it can impact our health. A few days ago, Barry Callebaut, which is the largest cocoa and chocolate factory in the world, detected a batch of Salmonella bacteria at its Wieze plant. Salmonella is a bacteria that causes infections such as Salmonellosis, typhoid fever, diarrhoea, fever and stomach cramps. Having chocolate without moderation increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity and allied complications.
To understand and decode some myths about the consequences attributed to the consumption of chocolate, we spoke to Dr Anam Golandaz, clinical dietician at the Masina Hospital, Mumbai, about the impact that chocolates have on individuals suffering from migraine, mental health issues, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. She suggested how “moderation in consumption” was the key to satisfy our craving.
Could you list a few benefits of consuming cocoa?
Cocoa consists of flavonoids and is a powerful antioxidant. It has many benefits, including increasing blood flow, reducing the risk of clotting and lowering the risk of strokes and other coronary heart diseases. It also improves brain functioning because it increases the levels of serotonin or the happy hormone in the blood. Additionally, cocoa is great for skin.
Can chocolate cause bacterial infections and intestinal worms?
That totally depends upon the quality of chocolate. Good quality ones contain polyphenol that encourage growth of good bacteria like lactobacillus. This is good for your intestines and your gut health. Poor quality chocolates put you at a risk of infections. When it comes to quantity, healthy people, meaning those who are not suffering from other conditions, can have 30-60 gm of dark chocolate per day. If it’s milk chocolate, the amount is 10-15 gms per day.
How does consuming chocolate affect patients suffering from migraine?
Consuming chocolate cannot necessarily be considered as a trigger for migraine but when coupled with other conditions like stress, hormonal imbalance, disrupted sleep cycle, chocolate can act as a trigger. It is one of the food triggers that can work in combination with other foods like sugar, milk, and cheese. So migraine cannot be directly attributed to eating chocolate, but I would suggest patients with additional conditions to refrain from it.
How does consuming chocolate affect mental health issues?
Chocolate acts as an antidepressant because it increases the production of serotonin, regulates your mood and also contributes to your well-being. Research suggests chocolate works to bring down your anxiety levels.
Is chocolate advisable for a diabetic patient? If yes, then what type of chocolate and in what quantity?
If the patient is following a healthy, well-balanced diet according to their diabetic condition, then we could advise them to have one ounce (20-30 gms) of dark chocolate per day. But if the person is already eating unhealthy, then I recommend they avoid it altogether. I would advise them to consume dark chocolate that is low on sugar, calories and saturated fat.
Are people suffering from cardiovascular diseases advised to consume chocolate?
For such patients, the quality and quantity of chocolate would make a difference. Like diabetic patients, I would recommend them to consume dark chocolate in the same quantity, that is 20-30 gms per day, provided that they are following a balanced diet and not consuming additional saturated fat. Chocolate is also considered as a food that can reduce the HDL levels, if consumed in the right quantity and right quality.
What are other diseases that could be attributed to the over-consumption of chocolates?
Excess will increase your calorie consumption that could eventually lead to metabolic disorders and obesity. Once obese, you become vulnerable to a whole lot of other diseases. Even when you are consuming dark chocolate, you must remember that at the end of the day it contains added saturated fats. Thus, one should always look at the nutrition chart because every manufacturer works with a different ratio.