Chocolate's Little Secret

Essay by ballerina4220College, UndergraduateA+, May 2004

download word file, 4 pages 4.3

After a long rainy day, you return home seeking warmth and comfort. As you make yourself a nice, warm cup of hot chocolate, you know it will not only heat your insides but will also satisfy your love of chocolate. Chocolate, whether a cup of hot cocoa or a box of See's Candies, has traditionally been regarded as an indulgence. But contrary to popular belief and thanks to the wonders of modern science, chocolate does have health benefits, which have only recently been revealed.

First, although chocolate does contain some fat, the fat in chocolate comes from cocoa butter, "a vegetable fat that is rich in saturated fatty acids" (Shahkhalili 246). Cherri Straus, MPH, states in her article for the Blue Cross of California, "Chocolate contains stearic acid [a saturated fat], which after eaten is converted to oleic acid in the body." Saturated fats have often been viewed as negative and unhealthy for the heart and cardiovascular system.

"However," as Francene Steinburg, Ph. D., RD, points out, "stearic acid is an unusual SFA [saturated fatty acid], in that it does not elevate blood cholesterol levels to the same extent as other saturated fatty acids" (216). Steinburg, the Director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics in the Nutrition Department of the University of California Davis, along with her colleagues, writes that "one third of the lipid [which include fatty acids and neutral fats] in cocoa butter is composed of the fat stearic acid, which exerts a neutral cholesterolemic response in humans" (215). Thus the amount of saturated fat found in cocoa butter, and therefore in many kinds of chocolate, is neutral in regards to cholesterol and does not increase cholesterol levels in the arteries. "Oleic acid," Straus further explains, "is a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat" ("Chocolate and Fat"). However, of the many...