Chocolate in your Gluten-Free Diet for Improved Health
Chocolate as a preventative measure for cardiometabolic diseasesThank God chocolate is gluten-free! I love chocolate, and it is nearly its own "food group" in my diet. And, chocolate is once again getting more attention from the medical and scientific community researching its potential to influence our health in a positive way. I have written about the health benefits of chocolate / cocoa here on the Gluten-Free Blog in the past, including this blog from just a year ago about how Dark Chocolate Lowers Blood Pressure. This latest research reinforces prior findings.
The BMJ (British Medical Journal) just published their research findings about chocolate in a paper titled "Chocolate consumption and cardiometabolic disorders: systematic review and meta-analysis". Those "disorders" looked at include cardiovascular disease (coronary heart disease and stroke), diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. And, chocolate consumption proved to be quite beneficial in reducing some symptoms of those diseases/disorders.
Chocolate Consumption leads to Substantial Reduction in Risk of Cardiometabolic DisordersI for one do not require further encouragement to consume chocolate, but it is nice to know that my cocoa and chocolate addiction could at least help me maintain better overall health as part of my gluten-free diet. This particular study came up with the following Results/Conclusions (directly quoted excerpts from the BMJ article):
Chocolate Study Results
From 4576 references seven studies met the inclusion criteria (including 114 009 participants). None of the studies was a randomised trial, six were cohort studies, and one a cross sectional study. Large variation was observed between these seven studies for measurement of chocolate consumption, methods, and outcomes evaluated. Five of the seven studies reported a beneficial association between higher levels of chocolate consumption and the risk of cardiometabolic disorders. The highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease (relative risk 0.63 (95% confidence interval 0.44 to 0.90)) and a 29% reduction in stroke compared with the lowest levels.
Chocolate Study Conclusions
Based on observational evidence, levels of chocolate consumption seem to be associated with a substantial reduction in the risk of cardiometabolic disorders. Further experimental studies are required to confirm a potentially beneficial effect of chocolate consumption.
Getting more Chocolate in your Gluten-Free DietIf you want to bump-up the amount of chocolate in your gluten-free diet in hopes of obtaining some of those same beneficial results, how can you best go about that? First of all, keep in mind that the benefits shown in these studies can be offset by the negative effects of consuming too many calories, too much fat, too much sugar, and so on.
Next, keep in mind that it is the COCOA that is apparently providing the health benefits through its polyphenol content and anti-oxidants — thus, plain cocoa is going to provide the most health benefit for the buck, followed by dark chocolate. Keep in mind that many forms of chocolate (like milk chocolate) will contain saturated fats that are certainly not "healthy". So, my personal opinion is that you should find ways to primarily consume cocoa without all the added fats, sugars, and such.
Sure, I am going to get my cocoa in my gluten-free chocolate cakes, cookies, and so forth, but I get most of my cocoa in frequently-consumed healthier creations like my near-daily gluten-free pancakes (where I use a LOT of cocoa), and in my homemade chocolate smoothies (again, much cocoa) just to name a couple. Cocoa is a rather versatile ingredient, and it makes a great gluten-free "flour" from my experience (high in fiber and even some minerals).
See my prior blog for links to various Gluten-Free Recipes using cocoa : including diet-shakes that I have posted online. That chocolate-chia-seed-pumpkin-spice "milkshake" (its actually dairy-free) is one great way to get a low-cal cocoa-enhanced flavorful summertime treat (note: I personally use a lot more cocoa than the "normal" amount shown in the recipe; I also use unsweetened rice-milk or hemp-milk and add a packet or two of PureVia stevia for sweetness to keep the sugar down).
Enjoy your cocoa!
Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information.