Chocolate, A Superfruit?

February 7/Hershey, Pa./The Express -- In news chocoholics have always dreamed of hearing, scientists have announced that their favorite treat is actually better for them than fruit.

Not only that, but chocolate is being heralded as the latest "super food." Researchers have proven it is packed with more healthy plant compounds and antioxidants gram-for-gram than fruit juice and provides far more nutritional goodness than food experts had previously thought.

The verdict came after U.S. scientists compared cocoa powder, the raw ingredient of chocolate, with powders made from fruits like acai berries, blueberries, cranberries and pomegranates, the "superfruits" known for powerful health-giving properties.

Research into dark chocolate, containing around 60% cocoa, and cocoa drinks found that they too had more antioxidant activity and more flavanols -- health-giving plant chemicals -- than fruit. Only mugs of hot chocolate let the theory down. They have few healthy ingredients because the drink has been processed.

The discovery means cocoa beans meet the nutritional criteria needed for fruits to be classed as "super fruits," according to the scientists at the Hershey Center for Health & Nutrition.

"The compounds in dark chocolate are just as good as the botanical compounds in fruit, " said Dr. Debra Miller, a senior member of the team.

"Cacao seeds should be considered a 'superfruit,' and products derived from cacao seed extracts, such as natural cocoa powder and dark chocolate, as 'super foods'."

It all sounds too good to be true for chocolate lovers, and it is. The findings do not alter the fact that their favorite is high in fat and sugar, meaning dieticians say it should be balanced with less yummy foods such as brown rice and pulses.

"Dark chocolate needs to be considered as more of a tropical fruit like avocado, which has a high fat content so you need to moderate the calories side of things, " said Miller.

"But people could create drinks and recipes containing cocoa to get the benefits without the calories."  

From the February 8, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News
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