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Choosing Chocolate For Good Health

Posting Date: 04/11/2005

Q. I am confused about chocolate. I read that it?s good for me because of its flavonoids. But I?ve also heard that alkali processing strips cocoa of most of these antioxidant chemicals.

If the good stuff is processed out, is chocolate still healthy? How can I find chocolate that is not alkali-processed?

A. Many studies on the health benefits of cocoa flavonoids have been funded by the Mars candy company. It developed a special method (CocoaPro?) to retain these antioxidant compounds during processing.

Independent research from Italy confirms that dark chocolate can lower blood pressure and help improve the response to insulin (Am. J. Clinical Nutrition, March 2005). Previous studies have shown that cocoa flavonoids can make blood vessels flexible and keep blood platelets from clumping together in clots.

Look for chocolate containing natural-processed cocoa instead of alkali-processed (also termed Dutch-processed) cocoa. Hershey and Guittard make both kinds. Ordinary Hershey's cocoa is an economical choice for making beverages and baked goods at home. Other makers of high-quality chocolates include Scharffen Berger, El Rey and Valrhona.

We discuss research on chocolate, offer guidelines on selecting high-flavonoid chocolate and tell how to make lower-fat, lower-calorie chocolate desserts in our cookbook, Chocolate Without Guilt. To order a copy, please send $17.95 to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. CWG, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.

Q. I?m 31 years old and dealing with anxiety and stress. My doctor put me on Paxil for this.

Within three weeks I felt better, but then I had a panic attack at work. I also lost weight. I went from 196 pounds to 152. When I have panic attacks I have an irregular heartbeat.

This is the worst thing ever. At times I feel like my time is up.

I?ve started taking St. John?s wort and skullcap. Are there any other herbs to help with my panic attacks? I am desperate.