Americans have a puritanical streak. This way of thinking suggests that if something hurts or tastes bad, it must be good for you. Conversely, things that taste good are often considered bad for you. That could be why many people believe that coffee, tea and especially chocolate are sinful treats. What if we told you about the health benefits of coffee, chocolate and tea?
Health Benefits of Coffee:
Science has been contradicting the puritan view for decades. Take coffee, for example. There is growing evidence that this popular morning beverage has health benefits. For one thing, coffee is rich in antioxidant compounds.
A recent meta-analysis of 40 studies found that coffee drinkers were less likely to die prematurely, with the fewest early heart disease deaths among those sipping 2.5 cups a day (European Journal of Epidemiology, Aug. 2019). Those who consumed two cups daily had lower rates of cancer as well.
The Puritans among us might be willing to grant that green tea could have health benefits. After all, who associates it with indulgence? But they probably raise their eyebrows at chocolate.
One reader expressed skepticism that chocolate could be healthy food:
“Some ingredients in cocoa may be good, but chocolate has a lot of sugar that would negate any benefit. I love chocolate too, but with all the massive obesity around us, do people need another excuse to stuff their faces with chocolate?”
Cocoa Compounds for Lower Blood Pressure:
A number of randomized controlled trials have confirmed that cocoa flavanols and other compounds in cocoa have significant health benefits. They lower blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Feb, 2017). Increased blood vessel flexibility seems to be due to the flavanols, especially epicatechins similar to those in tea (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Dec. 2018). On the other hand, compounds known as procyanidins appear responsible for lowering cholesterol.
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People who want the benefits of cocoa compounds without the sugar and fat found in chocolate candy may want to consider supplements instead. CocoaVia offers supplements with high-dose cocoa flavanols (450 mg). (Disclosure: the company underwrites our syndicated public radio show.)
Clearly, you don’t have to suffer to get health benefits from your beverages. Enjoying a cup of joe in the morning, sipping tea in the afternoon or savoring a cup of cocoa can all boost your health. We sometimes double up. When we add a packet of CocoaVia cocoa flavanols to coffee, we enjoy the health benefits of coffee and chocolate both.
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. Read Terry's Full Bio.
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