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Coffee & Chocolate – The Health Facts You Need To Know
“Friends or Foes”
Chocolate and coffee… Arguably two of the most controversial substances in modern society. For some an indulgence, for others a daily necessity or a “solution”, but, whatever the context, there is no doubt that the popularity of these substances is not waning, and it is for this reason that they justify a closer inspection…to look beyond mere “taste” and social association…and to understand the potential health implications of these two substances.
So, are coffee and chocolate good for us or not?
Perhaps more importantly; if chocolate and coffee pose health risks, what are they? And is there a way to consume them without the potential associated risks to our health.
To find the answers, let’s study each one separately:
1. Investigate chocolate:
Chocolate is currently enjoying renewed popularity among health professionals, many of whom now believe that chocolate – especially the dark or bitter variety – in small amounts, may possess beneficial health properties – i.e. ie antioxidants called polyphenols – which are believed to help reduce free radicals. damage in the body.
In 2001, Pennsylvania State University published a study of 23 men and women in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which showed how dark chocolate helped reduce the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (called “bad cholesterol”) by 8%. , and similarly increased HDL cholesterol levels (the “good” cholesterol) by 4%.
But, to fully understand what makes chocolate healthy or unhealthy, we need to look deeper:
The key factors that affect the impact of chocolate on health are:
1) The type of fat present in chocolate
2) Whether it is a Dark or Milk variety
3) The sugar content
4) The percentage of cocoa
Let’s go through each aspect:
1) The type of fat used
All chocolates have basically the same fat content – i.e. around 30-35%. However, the type of fat used can make a significant difference to health.
Good quality chocolate – be it milk chocolate or dark chocolate, unlike cheaper chocolate, gets its fat from cocoa butter. Cheaper varieties use hydrogenated vegetable fats – better known as trans fats. Trans fats, which are a cheaper source of fat, are created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oils (i.e. margarine) and are usually added to foods to increase their shelf life (the most commercial cookies, muffins, cakes, chocolates, chips and other snack foods generally contain trans fats). Importantly, trans fats increase LDL levels, which can lead to increased cardiovascular disease.
Therefore, regardless of whether it is a milk or dark variety, from a cholesterol standpoint it is always better to eat good quality chocolate than cheaper counter varieties.
2) Dark Vs Milk
Many people now generally accept that dark chocolate is healthier than milk chocolate, thinking the only reason is that the darker varieties contain less sugar.
While that’s a valid reason, the main reason is that dark chocolate doesn’t contain any dairy fat. Dark chocolate contains a fatty acid called “stearic acid,” which is a saturated fat that does not significantly raise serum cholesterol levels. Milk chocolate contains milk fat, which contains a fatty acid called “palmitic acid” – a saturated fatty acid that raises serum cholesterol levels.
Stearic acid contains palmitic acid, which is why it is also not recommended to eat too much of any form of chocolate.
3) The sugar content
Almost all chocolate contains sugar, however, milk chocolate varieties generally contain relatively higher amounts of sugar compared to darker varieties – and therefore, as they are not bitter, they are generally more popular than the darker varieties. darker. The relatively higher sugar content of milk chocolate can stimulate food cravings, which in turn can lead to eating larger amounts. Given the higher proportion of palmitic acid present in milk chocolate, this could have a significant impact on serum cholesterol levels in the body.
4) The percentage of cocoa
The cocoa content of most chocolates is generally proportional to the amount of sugar and/or milk fat present.
Most dark varieties contain less sugar (and no milk fat), which is why they are generally a better and safer option in terms of overall health. Additionally, the antioxidant properties of chocolate are found in cocoa, so dark chocolate is naturally higher in antioxidants.
Most good quality chocolates should contain no less than 30% cocoa for milk chocolate and 48-50% for dark varieties.
Good quality dark chocolate is undoubtedly the healthier option when considering a chocolate treat – it contains less sugar, higher cocoa content (i.e. levels of higher antioxidants) and no milk fat.
However, if you want milk chocolate, always look for a variety that contains at least 30% cocoa and does not contain any trans fats (indicated as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil/fat”; “hydrogenated vegetable oil/fat”; “Oil /hardened vegetable fat”).
2. Investigate coffee:
Coffee, like chocolate, has almost become a category in its own right. There are literally countless different blends and varieties available – as well as many popular preparation methods.
Naturally, it is easy to examine the more obvious dangers of coffee – such as the various “accompaniments” used in the preparation – i.e. whole milk, cream, sugar, flavored syrups – which are all now used in the preparation of many different coffees. concoctions and combinations.
Many believe that by substituting healthier accompaniments they can freely enjoy coffee without the associated health risks – for example by replacing whole milk/cream with fat-free varieties or using artificial sweeteners instead of sugar .
There is also a lot of debate about whether too much caffeine is detrimental to health, however, to understand why coffee can actually be harmful, we need to look not at coffee itself, but more importantly again, how it is prepared.
The Norwegian Trompso study (1983) examined the effects of coffee on 7,213 women and 7,368 men and found that drinking up to 2 cups a day had little or no effect on total cholesterol levels and of LDL cholesterol, concluding that these cholesterol levels were only positively affected with consumption of more than 2–3 cups per day.
However, other coffee research has identified the presence of lipids called diterpenes, a “fat” found in coffee that has been shown to raise serum cholesterol levels in the body.
It is important to note that these diterpenes (namely, “cafestol” and “kahweol”) are fat-soluble and are almost completely filtered by the filter paper used in the preparation of “filtered coffee”.
It is coffee prepared without filter paper – that is, boiled (Turkish); French press (piston); Espresso (Americano) – where cafestol levels are significant.
Research has shown that every 10 mg of cafestol consumed per day can raise cholesterol by 5 mg/dL.
Thus, “espresso” style coffee (or “Americano” style coffee); Cappuccinos (which are usually made with a shot of espresso coffee and heated milk), French press, and any style of coffee that doesn’t use filter paper can raise serum cholesterol levels in the body. The distinguished “crema” that forms on top of an “American style” espresso or coffee is actually produced from the lipids (fats) of coffee and is a quick way to identify the method of preparation used to prepare coffee. (filtered coffee usually has no crema and looks pure black).
See below for a comparison of diterpene levels in various coffee preparations:
Unfiltered boiled coffee – 2.8 mg/cup
Plunger (wire screen/French press) – 3.5 mg/cup
Turkish coffee – 3.9 mg/cup
Espresso – 1.5mg/cup
Therefore, 5 cups of espresso per day could raise serum cholesterol levels by 4 mg/dL, and 5 cups of French press (or French press) coffee could raise serum cholesterol levels by 8-10 mg/dL.
In comparison, the diterpene levels in drip filtered coffee were negligible.
Interestingly, as a nation, Finland went from its boiled to filtered coffee and, over a 20-year period, saw a significant drop in cardiovascular mortality over the same period.
According to the various studies, from a health point of view, it is probably best to try to consume no more than 2-3 cups of any type of coffee per day (including cappuccino and other “gourmet” coffees) – and also to ensure that whenever possible, this filtered coffee (filtered with filter paper) is chosen as opposed to espresso-style, plunger (French press) or boiled coffee.
When brewing espresso-style or plunger-style coffee at home, it’s a good option to first strain the brewed coffee through filter paper before drinking, to capture most of the harmful diterpenes.
Naturally, when having a “white” coffee, always aim for skimmed milk as opposed to whole milk or cream, and also keep added sugar to a minimum.
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