Tune in to our radio show on your local public radio station, or sign up for the podcast and listen at your leisure. Here’s what it’s about:

Chocolate has long been considered a sinful indulgence, definitely not a food that belongs in any “healthy” diet. But over the past few decades, evidence has been building that consuming chocolate actually offers specific health benefits. What are they, and what is the best way to get your dose of beneficial cocoa compounds? We talk with the experts about how chocolate affects blood pressure, stroke, and even Nobel Prize potential. And we get a peek at how to produce great tasting chocolate from a master. New research shows that cocoa flavanols can calm inflammation as well as relax blood vessels to lower blood pressure, lower total cholesterol and raise beneficial HDL cholesterol. People who eat chocolate regularly have a lower risk of stroke.

People who would like to get cocoa flavonoids without the sugar and calories of candy may be interested in CocoaVia. Mars Botanical, the manufacturer, provides standardized cocoa flavanol extract as supplements and in powders to add to beverages. CocoaVia also supports our free electronic newsletter.

Guests: Eric Ding, PhD, is an epidemiologist and nutrition scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Susanna Larsson, PhD, is Associate Professor in the Division of Nutritional Epidemiology at the Institute of Environmental Medicine of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. Her meta-analysis on chocolate consumption and stroke was published in Neurology.

Joseph Maroon, MD, FACS, Vice Chairman and Professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. He has been the team neurosurgeon for the Pittsburgh Steelers since 1980.

Franz Messerli, MD, FACC, FACP, is Professor of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University college of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. His article on chocolate consumption, cognitive function, and Nobel laureates was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

John Scharffenberger is co-founder of Scharffen Berger Chocolate.  With his business Partner, Dr. Robert Steinberg, he set off a new wave of chocolate making to the US.

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

 

 

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  1. ds
    Reply

    After reading of benefits of cocoa, 75% -100% cocoa, I purchased UNSWEETENED 100% Ghiradelli cocoa in baking section of supermarket. I put 1 TBSP in warmed milk with scoop (28 grams) of protein powder that has 3 grams sugar. A very delicious drink for breakfast or snack. The 100% Cocoa provides 1gram protein, protein powder has 20 grams of Protein, 8 oz. Milk is approx 8 grams of protein. Total protein in the drink is approx. 29 grams. Total calories is approx. 230 calories. (2O calories from 100% UNSWEETENED COCOA, 110 from protein powder & approx 100 calories from 8 oz. of milk- you can correct me on the milk calories.)
    My energy has definitely improved with my necessary additional protein. I hope my blood vessels are improving too. I used to be able to consume appropriate 30 grams protein until I became a FQ TOXICITY victim. (Antibiotics in Fluroquinolone family were needlessly, recklessly prescribed leaving me with little appetite & severe chronic pain. —Nerves, Tendons, etc.) I can no longer tolerate ANY MEATS or Milk (our usual high protein sources) that are NON ORGANIC, or pain is exacerbated. Thus I require ORGANIC MILK & meat. But appetite is still very limited, thus my reliance upon milk since digesting even a little meat is difficult.
    The 100% COCOA & PROTEIN drink leaves me satisfyingly satiated for approx 5 hours. With the mild tasty flavors contained in that drink I have no cravings nor as many desires for desserts. Though I always ate fruits & vegetables, I have increased those. Sometimes cooking & grinding carrots, kale & spinach into blender with vanilla protein powder & milk. My energy levels have improved. Lost 10 pounds of weight gained from being sedentary due to FQ Toxicity. Nerve & Tendon pain is still a big problem, but am grateful for energy & weight improvement.

  2. S.T.
    Reply

    Important topic on the health benefits of chocolate. Thank you! My only issue is that the none of the guest commentators really brought up the point about substituting cocoa powder for chocolate to get around the fat/calories issue, which is rather curious. I can’t imagine that they don’t know it is an option and that cocoa powder is in the bakery or organic section of most grocery stores! It would have been beneficial if the hosts would have asked more questions about using cocoa powder.

  3. ron
    Reply

    what is the half life for dark chocolate it seems not to metabolize but even small amounts build up causing insomnia?!
    R

  4. DDH
    Reply

    Like some of the others, I was somewhat disappointed that nobody really addressed the question about whether or not pure cocoa powder (not dutch processed) gives the same benefits as chocolate. The one person who even addressed the problems seemed more interested in selling his chocolate, and it seemed to me a couple of others were also mainly on there to hawk their products in the guise of answering questions.
    Please address the question of cocoa vs chocolate, and if it is as good or better, what kind. Currently I buy the 100% baking cocoa from Hershey’s which I believe is not alkalized and is not extremely expensive. I found that Scharffen Berger makes unsweetened cocoa as well and wished that the person from that company would have talked about that. If you have any clear information about this I’d so appreciate it, as I would rather get my cocoa from an unsweetened, low fat source without having to resort to taking supplements.

  5. Dave
    Reply

    Many who have posted here are concerned about the sugar in chocolate. My best advice is to read the labels. I’ve found some “dark” chocolates to contain as much as 52% sugar. As an alternative, Try Trader Joe’s. They sell an 85% cacao dark chocolate with just 15% sugar. It’s quite good and not the least bit bitter.

  6. JBG
    Reply

    One should look for “dutch processed” or “alkalized” on labels in order to AVOID products processed that way. Dutch processing considerably REDUCES the valued components of cocoa/chocolate.
    Joe asked the appropriate question about using cocoa straight, but the guest “answered” without answering, and Joe let him get away with it.
    Cocoa powder sold for baking purposes is the most effective way to get the desired flavonols. Another commenter has provided an example recipe. Myself, I simply take a tablespoon of cocoa powder in a glass of hot water. This will taste pretty bitter the first time, but you can get used to that in a few days. (The notion that cocoa should be sweet is a modern one. The Central American royalty who had an exclusive right to consume cocoa in pre-Columbian times did not sweeten it — they mixed it with the likes of cayenne!)
    Be sure to get cocoa from the Baking aisle at the supermarket. Do not buy the pre-mixed, heavily-sweetened “hot chocolate”. The container should say: INGREDIENTS 100% cocoa

  7. Lindsay Williams B.S. Dietetics
    Reply

    Yes, Flavanol’s are the healthy component of chocolate. It is possible to find cocoa powder that isn’t alkalized, usually in the organic section of the story; it may take further research of specific products via online or calling the company. I was really hoping this podcast would address this issue further and maybe dispel/clarify or shed light on what the consumer could do to ensure they are buying quality chocolate at the grocery store. I don’t believe the manufacturer is required to label whether the cocoa is alkalized or not.

  8. Frances
    Reply

    Thank you for your quite thorough show on chocolate/cacao/cocoa.
    It is easy to utilize raw cacao powder in sweet treats without adding sugar or flour.
    I use raw or roasted cacao powder, coconut oil, walnuts or other nuts, tiny bit of maple syrup or honey or coconut sugar and some vanilla extract. Mix it all up together in a food processor, pat it in a pan and refrigerate until firm. Super Yummy and Super anti-oxidant healthy.

  9. MN
    Reply

    I did enjoy the show about health benefits of chocolate, but I was disappointed that there was no information about using pure cocoa powder from the bakery aisle to prepare ones own chocolate foods or beverages.
    Does the supermarket cocoa powder contain the ‘beneficial cocoa compounds’ that were discussed? Also any other things a consumer should know about this cocoa powder as it relates to health … a scientific analysis/breakdown.
    I would like to have info on how to make my own hot chocolate and chocolate bars, etc. using pure cocoa powder, if it has the discussed benefits.

  10. MN
    Reply

    Isn’t the idea that flavanols are the property that benefits health? So are you stating that I would want to avoid purchasing Dutch processed or alkalized cocao?
    Also, through a quick Google search, it seems that it is difficult to find alkalized/Dutch processed cocoa in the U.S.

  11. tutorjb1JB
    Reply

    It’s wonderful to read these intelligent comments and questions about this very important People’s Pharmacy show.
    I also ceased eating chocolate and everything else with sugar in it as well as all “white” foods (even white and sweet potatoes) decades ago in an effort to prevent diabetes as I’ve had three severe disabilities for from 5 to 40 years I’ve learned to cope with and another, diabetes, that is horrible in itself as well as making every other physical problem worse just might be too much to handle and quite literally push me over the edge. I’d only need to find one high enough.
    I wish I could find sugar-free dark chocolate that I could buy without putting my credit card number online. It seems that every day something goes wrong with my computer. Yesterday I couldn’t get online, but this morning I’m back and wondering how long that good news will last. Consumer Reports describes PCs as the worst, most unreliable consumer product ever made, but I’m getting off the topic. So thank all of you for the information and your intelligent comments,
    tutorjb1

  12. Irv
    Reply

    I have heard that cocoa proccessed with alkali (Dutch process) destroys some of the good flavinoids. Is that true? take a look at the Hersey Cocoa and Dark Cocoa.

  13. LV
    Reply

    I love chocolate, particularly European-made milk chocolate, so this program was helpful in educating me about the benefits of dark chocolate. I have been teetering on the border of prediabetes, however, so have significantly cut back on any chocolate consumption (I attempt to eat products that have no more than 5 grams of sugar per serving) and exercise regularly to keep my weight down. Has anyone found a decent-tasting chocolate bar that is not a healthy-body-buster?

  14. Lindsay Williams B.S. Dietetics
    Reply

    One topic I don’t recall being discussed during this broadcast was the processing of cocoa. I have researched the antioxidant benefits of dark chocolate, and in my research I discovered that the alkalization of chocolate (also known as Dutch Processing) reduces the flavanol content of chocolate. It’s important for the consumer to look for “dutch processed” or “alkalized” on the label if they want to receive the full benefits of chocolate.
    Miller, K.B, Hurst, W.J., Payne, M.J., Stuart, D.A., Apgar, J., Sweigart D.S., & Ou, B. (2008). Impact of Alkalization on the Antioxidant and Flavanol Content of Commercial Cocoa Powders. Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry. doi:10.1021/jf801670p

  15. MJW
    Reply

    I stopped eating chocolate 15 years ago when I stopped eating sugar (best decision of my life, and I am NOT diabetic). I waited patiently for someone to sell chocolate bars sweetened another way, and recently discovered Simply Lite (sweetened with maltitol). I am wondering now about maltitol vs. sugar. Does anyone have information on that?
    People’s Pharmacy response: Maltitol is a “sugar alcohol.” Used as a sugar substitute, it provides sweetness but not the rapid rise in blood glucose you get from sugar. It is not alcohol like ethanol–you won’t get drunk on it. But if you eat too much (and that is easy), you will be running to the bathroom and suffering with gas.

  16. W. Robnett
    Reply

    Can we buy this from you?

  17. ron
    Reply

    I love chocolate HOWEVER it appears to build up in my system including small amounts and I end up with insomnia and anxiety.
    R

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