Chocolate is good for you!
How many times have you craved that piece of chocolate cake or Hershey’s kiss? Eating chocolate is pleasurable so much so that many of us our self admitted ‘chocoholics’. In addition, many people with Parkinson’s have a ‘sweet tooth’. Researchers from Dresden University found that people with Parkinson’s ate more chocolate than research participants without Parkinson’s even though both group consumed the same amount of total sweets.
So is there something special about chocolate itself?
Chocolate may increase brain neurotransmitters. Chocolate contains chemical substances such as phenylethylamine that can release dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is not just an important neurotransmitter associated with movement changes in Parkinson’s. Dopamine is chemical messenger that influences brain areas associated with our sense of craving, reward system and addiction.
Chocolate contains caffeine. We all know the how caffeine makes us feel. Many people consider the effects of caffeine positive but this is not always the case. For some it can help as ‘gain energy and stay alert’. For others it causes irritability, anxiety, tremor and insomnia.
Chocolate contains powerful antioxidants called flavonols. These flavanols protect against oxidative stress a chemical reaction that can damage cells neurons. Research suggests that antioxidant rich chocolate may be good for your heart, blood pressure and blood lipid levels.
Shopping for Chocolate
- Read the ingredients! Chocolate is produced from the cocoa bean. Chocolate contains cocoa extract, cocoa butter, sugar, and milk. Reading the label will determine the relative amounts of each of these ingredients. Choose products that list cocoa as the first ingredient.
- White and milk chocolate are high in both sugar and milk fat and low in healthy ingredients. Choose dark or bittersweet.
- Choose Dark chocolate. Search for cocoa content > 70% to insure a greater concentration of healthful antioxidants and substances above.
- Remember that a diet high processed sugar and dairy fat can lead to a number of health problems. Limit chocolate to less than 1 oz daily.
- Mix real cocoa powder with milk for hot chocolate rather than prepared hot chocolate mix.
Chocolate has made the list of Top PD Foods-the caveat being only if used sparingly.
Author: Monique Giroux, MD