Thursday, March 06, 2014

Dark Chocolate and Arghhh

I've seen several articles like this in the past week:
Dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels. Both arterial stiffness and white blood cell adhesion are known factors that play a significant role in atherosclerosis.

Some study was just released blah blah blah.

I pay attention to this stuff now, because my family history has risk factors for cardiac disease, and I struggle to keep all my cholesterol levels in "safe" territory. So I've tried to be more strict about my diet.

What's impossible, though, is to figure out what to eat. There's so much constantly revised and downright contradictory information that it seems like the safest thing to do is just starve.

Dark chocolate is a good example.

One of the current cornerstones of cardiac health lore is that not all fat is bad for you. What's important is the ratio of total fat to saturated fat, and you want that to be as high as possible. It's not quite that simple, but it's a general rule. I try to make sure that everything I eat--with only very rare exceptions--is at least 5-1. Quite a bit of stuff I eat is in the 10-1 range.

Well, chocolate is awful. It has a huge amount of saturated fat, and many chocolate products (bars, chocolate-covered nuts, etc.) don't even have a 2-1 ratio. I'm looking at a Ghirardelli chocolate bar right now ("Twilight Delight", 72% cacao because high cacao content is key to getting the health benefit, supposedly), and it has 17 grams of total fat and 10 grams of saturated fat per serving.

So does the high cacao content of the chocolate bar, along with its commensurate benefits, outweigh the totally unhealthy fat ratio? Is this all based on the level of cacao, and at what level does the good outweigh the bad?

This is one of those category of things that was totally unimportant twenty years ago, and now it drives me crazy.

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