Chocolates have received a lot of bad rep over the years, but are they really bad for our health? Didn’t they also say cocoa was good for the body…? So, which is it?

Now let’s debunk some common myths about chocolate

Dental Decay: Too much sugar consumed whatever the source will cause cavities and dental degradation. Chocolate contains antioxidants and antibacterial agents that are beneficial to the entire body. Eating it in moderation can’t be that bad, but be careful not to overindulge. Cacao, the source of chocolate, contains antibacterial agents that fight tooth decay. When in need of some sugar, reach for a bar of dark chocolate, as it contains significantly higher amounts of cacao and lower amounts of sugar than white chocolate, making it healthier.

Acne: The amount of secretions in the body coupled with poor facial and body hygiene can result in skin problems. Also, the side effects of some medication can cause the skin to break out. There is no research out there to prove that chocolate causes acne.

Excessive Caffeine: Comparing the effects of chocolates to that of coffee is wrong as they are completely different. You may feel fuzzy after consuming bucket-loads of chocolate, but who does that? Research actually shows that chocolate has a relaxing effect on the body and though stimulating, does not provide the same effect as a ‘caffeine rush.’

Aphrodisiac: We’ve read this in novels and watched it played out in movies (think Cleopatra). Chocolate is said to produce a feel-good-effect when consumed in excess. It contains small amounts of a chemical called phenylethylamine (PEA) an organic compound that releases endorphins and serotonin in the brain – a mild mood elevator which is often likened to an aphrodisiac.

Cholesterol: The fat content in cocoa does not raise the level of bad cholesterol; rather it raises the level of good cholesterol in the body. The cocoa butter in chocolate contains oleic acid, a mono-unsaturated fat which can raise good cholesterol, and stearic acid – a neutral fat that does not appear to raise bad cholesterol (LDL).

Weight Gain: Dark chocolate has been touted to be healthier than white chocolate as it contains fewer calories and is high in antioxidants while white chocolate contains very little cocoa and is filled with saturated fat, sugar and calories. Not eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly can lead to weight gain, especially if you’re feeding off sugary substances and chocolates 24/7. There is however nothing wrong in eating the occasional chocolate. The only advantage of eating white chocolate is the calcium it contains.

Good for the Heart: Chocolate (dark) contains ingredients like flavonoids and anti-oxidants that are great for cardiovascular health by removing toxins and free radicals detrimental to our health. It is said that the chemicals in chocolates keep the blood vessels elastic (increasing blood flow and keeping arteries unclogged), but its benefits specific to the heart remain unclear.

Bad for Dogs: Chocolate contains chemicals (theobromine) that dogs and cats cannot process. Dogs and cats can’t metabolize or excrete, a mild stimulant found in chocolate. It can trigger seizures, cardiac irregularity, internal bleeding, and can even lead to death. So don’t leave your chocs within easy reach of your pets.

Rich in Antioxidants: Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants as long as it is not taken with milk. Antioxidants gobble up free radicals, destructive molecules that are implicated in heart disease and other ailments.

On the flip side, too much indulgence in anything (including chocolate) can be bad for you. You don’t need a soothsayer to tell you that too much sugar can damage your teeth (dental decay, gum disease and cavities), increase your blood sugar level (diabetes), raise your cholesterol level (white chocolate) or lead to weight gain if left unchecked. Chocolate, like every other thing consumed in excess does have negative side effects.

Balance out your snacking with more fruits and veggies, incorporate exercise into your lifestyle, and then enjoy the absolutely delicious benefits of ‘Dark’ chocolates.