Mediterranean Sweeteners

Can You Eat Chocolate On the Mediterranean Diet? 

Dark chocolate, derived from the seeds of the cocoa tree, Theobroma cacao, originates in America and arrives in Europe thanks to Christopher Columbus. Throughout history it has been as revered as demonized and, despite the disputes still present, we can confirm that chocolate is good for health as long as you do not eat too much. Named “food of the gods” by the ancient Mayans and Aztecs, who consumed it a lot even during sacred rituals, chocolate was considered a noble and valuable food to the point that it was exclusive to the upper castes. It was valuable to the point that it could be used as a currency, taking the name “Amygdalae pecuniariae”, that is, “almond of money”. The name chocolate derives, instead, from the Aztec name “nahuatl xocoatl”, a term used to define counterfeit cocoa (the empty shells of the seeds were filled with mud).

Beware of chocolate in your diet: not all chocolate is good for you!

Not all types of chocolate are good for you, so pay attention to your diet! It is likely that it is for this reason that there are still disputes about the healthy aspects of chocolate, but we can confirm that the only type of chocolate that has real nutritional properties for our body is dark chocolate with at least 90% bitter cocoa and that the remaining chocolate derivatives do not involve particular benefits to the body.

Not only does the type of chocolate count, but also the quality!

Obviously, there are various qualities of chocolate, each with particular characteristics:

Cacao Criollo: considered noble cocoa, it has white seeds that are not very bitter and fragrant. Mainly found in Central America and northern South America, it is the most expensive quality of chocolate.

Cacao Forastero: main cocoa of consumption, has purple seeds and a very bitter taste. Coming from West Africa, Brazil, and East Asia, it is the best market quality.

Trinitarian cocoa: a hybrid of the first two, it comes mainly from the Amazon. Also cultivated in Mexico, Colombia, the Caribbean, and Venezuela, although production is limited.

Why is it only dark chocolate that is beneficial for one’s diet?

This distinction occurs for a precise reason: the higher the percentage of cocoa in the bar, the greater the number of flavonoids contained in it. For example, in 100 grams of dark chocolate, there is about 50-60mg of flavinoids, while the same amount of milk chocolate contains only about ten. Zero is the flavinoid content in white chocolate. It is only dark chocolate, therefore, is comparable to berries for the number of flavonoids contained in it, and to green tea for the antioxidant power of its catechins.

But what are the benefits of dark chocolate?

To understand the merits of cocoa from the base, let’s see what it is made of:

  • Proteins
  • Iron
  • Lipids
  • Carbohydrates
  • Mineral Salts (Magnesium, Potassium, Calcium, Phosphorus, Iron, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, Selenium, and Sodium)
  • Vitamins B, K, J
  • Aminoacids (Aspartic Acid, Glutamic Acid, Alanine, Arginine, Cystine, Glycine, Phenylalanine, Histidine, Isoleucine, Lysine, Proline, Methionine, Seine, Tyrosine, Tryptophan, Valine, Threonine)
  • Tyramine
  • Caffeine
  • Theobromine
  • Phenylethylamine
  • Flavinoids
  • Polyphenols
  • Serotonin

So, what qualities does this delicious cocktail of substances bring? Why include it in the diet?

Chocolate has anti-aging properties due to its high concentration of antioxidant principles. It fights the aging of our body, therefore, with an effect comparable to red wine, tea, and berries!

Dark chocolate can really be useful as an antidepressant, although many still claim otherwise! By increasing our body’s serotonin, chocolate helps fight depression and anxiety.

Yes, the aphrodisiac properties of chocolate have been confirmed! An increase in the libido of those who eat dark chocolate has been found.

Being full of vitamins and carbohydrates, chocolate is advisable as a source of energy for the day or for sports!

A small amount of dark chocolate can even help clean the arteries and keep cholesterol low!

Chocolate is useful for stimulating and strengthening the immune system.

It has many protective features: thanks to magnesium it helps protect the heart against heart attacks and strokes; Thanks to antioxidants and flavinoids, it protects the skin from the harmful rays of the sun and regulates blood pressure.

Useful against anemia: particularly suitable for those suffering from anemia, dark chocolate is rich in iron and can maximize its effect when associated with vitamin C (to increase absorption). Dark chocolate and strawberries have been discovered as a great combination!

Useful for the diet, but not recommended in case of…

Cocoa has contraindications and side effects and is generally not recommended for those suffering from:

  • Insomnia or hyperactivity, as it contains caffeine;
  • Headache, as it contains stimulants and theobromine;
  • Tachycardia, also due to caffeine;
  • Hiatal hernia, as the pressure of the lower esophageal sphincter, is reduced by the theobromine contained in it;
  • Allergies, such as chocolate, cause alterations in histamine levels, which could cause allergic reactions on the skin.
  • Mood disorders, since chocolate also contains anandamide, a substance that can cause addiction;
  • Pregnant women and diabetics should consult their doctor.

Can you eat chocolate on the Mediterranean diet? 

The British Journal of Nutrition has declared that dark chocolate is a valuable source of polyphenols, thanks to research carried out by them. They claim that it is useful to add it to your diet as it has a higher percentage of substances compared to wine and green or black tea. To certify this claim, the study studied the effects of consuming 20g of dark chocolate (container of 500 or 1000 mg of polyphenols) for two weeks, tracking the variability of blood sugar, cholesterolemia, and blood pressure on 40 overweight or obese people. 

The results are incredible: chocolate with 500 mg of polyphenols greatly reduced fasting blood sugar and blood pressure; the one with 1000 mg of polyphenols obtained the same results on the same parameters. 

The benefits of chocolate in your diet are confirmed, therefore, as long as the regular consumption of dark chocolate is of moderate doses: without moderation you do not get the effects of controlling blood pressure and balancing glucose (which prevents diabetes and overweight).

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