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Dairy-Free Chocolate for the Best Health Rewards

Research has shown time and time again that eating small portions of dark chocolate may provide numerous health benefits as a result of chocolate's antioxidant properties. However, a new study, performed by a team of scientists in Scotland and Italy, suggests that eating milk chocolate or even drinking milk with your chocolate, significantly reduces those health benefits.

Chocolate derives from the seeds of the cacao tree, a small evergreen bush cultivated throughout the tropics. Cacao’s botanical name is ‘Theobromo cacao’, meaning ‘food of the gods’. Chocolate is created from cocoa, the solids of the cacao bean, and cocoa butter, the natural fat of the cocoa bean. Dark chocolate is the purest form of cocoa without any milk additives.

Proven to be high in flavonoids, an essential antioxidant that has been linked to cardio-vascular health, chocolate may be able to protect the body from major health issues, including stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes.

The latest study on chocolate used 12 healthy subjects, five men and seven women, between the ages of 25 and 35. They were given dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate with milk to drink, to determine the difference in antioxidant absorption. The study showed that the subjects consuming milk chocolate had to eat twice as much to get the same amount of antioxidants as those eating dark chocolate alone. Eating twice as much chocolate is not a viable substitution for health benefits, since chocolate contains a high level of calories and fats.

The study concluded that eating dairy with chocolate may cause milk proteins to bind with the antioxidants in chocolate, making the antioxidants unable to be absorbed into the body. This also suggests that dairy products may obstruct antioxidants in other healing foods, such as tea, red wine and fruit.

The blood antioxidant levels of subjects eating dark chocolate alone were boosted almost twenty percent.

Although eating daily chocolate could be a feasible, and enjoyable, supplementation method for boosting antioxidant levels, it should not be used as a replacement for fruits and vegetables, the best source of naturally occurring antioxidants as well as vitamins and minerals.

To extract the most benefit from chocolate consumption, sensible consumption (meaning small portions) of dark chocolate, with a cocoa content of 70% of higher, may be best in terms of delivering antioxidant-rich health benefits.

The author of this article is Tim Moore, writing for Vitamins Stuff, a site that offers information on Vitamins and Alternative Medicine.