Is Chocolate Really Good for You?

The myth: Chocolate is good for you. True or false? Mike Dawson has the answer.

One of the many joys of adulthood—in addition to the sex, the money, the drinking, and the traveling—is the infinitely superior chocolate our aged palates prefer. Sure, Hershey's has its nostalgic place, but the boom in small-batch dark chocolate has thrilled a generation of grown-up sweet tooths who can't quit quality cacao.

At a party recently, I watched guests tear through a big box of Vosge's champagne chocolate truffles, and three topics kept emerging:

  1. Cheap candy bars are for suckers.
  2. Dark chocolate is good for you, right?
  3. We are rotting our teeth.

First, let's look at the whole chocolate-causes-cavities thing. It's not entirely true. Cocoa doesn't cause tooth decay; carbs (a.k.a. sugar) do, whether they come from pasta or Peppermint Patties. Specifically, the more opportunities you give carbs to glom onto your choppers, the more likely they will meld with bacteria, which ultimately leads to cavities. So, assuming you brush your teeth a few times a day, popping four bite-size truffles at once isn't nearly as bad as popping one every 30 minutes for two hours. Snackers and grazers, beware.

As for the second topic, it is true, technically, that dark chocolate is good for you, but with a major caveat. Unlike most milk chocolate, the darker, cacao-rich cousin is teeming with flavanols, antioxidant compounds that have been clinically shown to not only boost brain power but also lower cholesterol and the risk of heart attack. That said, decidedly chocolate-free foods such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts pack far more flavanols and, more importantly, actually boast nutrients, fiber, and vitamins. So dark chocolate is hardly the best way to get antioxidants into your body. But it is by far the tastiest.

— Dawson is a magazine writer and editor and a regular contributor to Details.

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