We know that the sugar in chocolate isn’t good for us and neither are the fat and excess calories, but natural cocoa powder can be considered a health food.
Cocoa, for example, has been found to improve artery function, even more so than açaí berries.
If you’re familiar with my work, you’ve heard me say countless times that we should choose whole plant foods, but, sometimes, processing can make foods even more healthful. Tomato juice, for example, appears to be the one common juice that may actually be healthier than the whole fruit. The processing of tomato products boosts the availability of the antioxidant red pigment lycopene by as much as fivefold. Similarly, the removal of fat from cacao beans to make cocoa powder improves the nutritional profile, because cocoa butter is one of the rare saturated plant fats (along with coconut and palm kernel oils) that can raise your cholesterol.
So, for the purposes of my Traffic Light model, I like to think of “unprocessed” as nothing bad added, nothing good taken away. In the above example, tomato juice could be thought of as relatively unprocessed because even much of the fiber is retained—unless salt is added, which would make it a processed food in my book and bump it right out of the green zone. Similarly, I would consider chocolate processed because sugar is added, but not cocoa powder.
Adding it to a smoothie or oatmeal, for instance, would be health-promoting, but try to use unprocessed, undutched cocoa. The flavonols are what give cocoa its bitterness, so manufacturers often try to process cocoa with alkali to destroy them on purpose. Thus, when it comes to cocoa, bitter appears to be better.
The information on this page has been compiled from Dr. Greger’s research. Sources for each video listed can be found by going to the video’s page and clicking on the Sources Cited tab. References may also be found at the back of his books.
Image Credit: Pablo Merchán Montes / Unsplash. This image has been modified.
All Videos for Cocoa
Best Brain Foods: Greens & Beets Put to the Test
Cocoa and nitrite-rich vegetables, such as green leafies and beets, are put to the test for cognitive function.
Does Adding Milk Block the Benefits of Coffee?
How to choose the healthiest coffee, and the effects of adding milk vs. soymilk.
Are Apples the Best Food for a Better Sex Life in Women?
Addyi (flibanserin), the drug marketed for “hypoactive sexual desire disorder,” is ineffective and unsafe. What about dietary approaches for female sexual dysfunction?
Foods to Improve Athletic Performance and Recovery
What are the effects of spinach and berries on oxidative stress, inflammation, and muscle soreness in athletes?
Does Cocoa Powder Cause Acne?
Is the link between chocolate and acne due to the sugar, the milk, or the cocoa in chocolate? Researchers put white chocolate, dark chocolate, baking chocolate, and cocoa powder to the test to find out.
Dining by Traffic Light: Green Is for Go, Red Is for Stop
In this video, I explain my traffic light system for ranking the relative healthfulness of Green Light vs. Yellow Light vs. Red Light foods.
The Benefits of Açai vs. Blueberries for Artery Function
What are the effects of açai berries, cooked and raw blueberries, grapes, cocoa, green tea, and freshly squeezed orange juice on artery function?
Chocolate and Stroke Risk
Dark chocolate is pitted against milk chocolate in a test of artery function.
Caution: Anti-Inflammatory Foods in the Third Trimester
For the same reason that anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen are advised against during late pregnancy, anti-inflammatory foods may increase the risk of premature closure of the ductus arteriosus.
Does Chocolate Cause Weight Gain?
Big Candy boasts studies showing that those who eat chocolate weigh less than those who don’t, but what does the best science show?