Hearts from Freestock at Unsplash.com                                         (Valentine hearts from Freestock at Unsplash.com)

There’s been a buzz for years about chocolate — dark chocolate, milk chocolate,  white chocolate, which I’m sure thrills dentists (cuz we eat it so much). They say the U. S. imports $5 billion (!) worth of chocolate a year (wonder if that is just for Valentine’s Day or combining Halloween, Valentine’s AND Easter candy buys). So, does all this chocolate mania result in filling the coffers of delighted dentists?

It depends  on the sugar content.

The Mayo Clinic’s info on this says that dental plaque sticks to teeth from the sugar and starches we eat. Bacteria actually “feeds” on  the sugars and creates the plaque, which leads to eroding the tooth enamel and cavities. Not brushing your teeth often enough and  dry mouth help  the cavities along. With my sweet tooth, it’s a wonder my whole mouth isn’t one big filling!

So is dark chocolate really all that healthy for you?

Well, sort of.

A recent study from the National Library of Medicine (https://pubmed.ncbi.nim.nih.gov/19397954/  ) states that polyphenols (which act as antioxidants and help protect health) that are in cocoa, coffee, and tea can play a role in preventing cavities because of antibacterial action. Cocoa polyphenol pentames will reduce biofilm formation and acid production by Streptococus mutans (and other bacteria). Studies concerning black, green, and oolong tea also  show an anticaries effect.

But here’s the thing.

While most teas will  help prevent cavities, it’s different with chocolate. To be “the most” effective, you need dark chocolate that is less than 6-8 grams sugar, and organic too if possible, the less processed the better.

Can you actually buy a chocolate bar THAT low in sugar? Well, it’s a challenge.

Ghirardelli  has 86 percent dark chocolate pieces, Tazo’s Almond and Sea Salt chocolate bar is 80 percent cacao. But do these things actually taste good?

Try them out and see.

Of course, we all love Lady Godiva, Whitman, Hershey’s Chocolate. Just not all the time. Your teeth will thank you! (And brush those teeth twice a day [which is what the dentist tells me]!) Your teeth will thank you.

But WAIT! Maybe I haven’t done all my research about chocolate bars. A recent NPR report cites a Consumer Reports which found that many “dark chocolate” bars  have cadmium and lead! I remember painting once with cadmium (it’s in shades of yellow, orange, red), but high doses of cadmium in your system can cause birth defects, lung cancer, or other reproductive issues. High doses of lead  could slow kids’ growth development and hurt their brains and nervous systems.

The Consumer Reports study  (https://www.npr.org/2022/12/17/1143239430/dark-chocolate-lead-cadmium-consumer-reports )  tested 28 different dark chocolate bars and found most of them exceeded the cadmium and lead limits set by California law, what they called Maximum Allowable Levels for a 1.5-3.5 oz. bar of chocolate. One ounce of Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate (70 % cocoa) and Dove’s Promises Deeper Dark Chocolate (70% cacao) exceeded acceptable cadmium levels. Hershey’s Special Dark Mildly Sweet Chocolate exceeded acceptable lead levels.

If you “want” to go with dark chocolate, Ghirardelli’s Intense Dark (76 or 86 % cacao) or Taza Chocolate Deliciously Dark (70% cacao) went above California standards.  The cadmium comes from the  soil where these plants are planted; the lead comes in after harvest, being exposed to dust and mold. Standards to improve this are being looked into by farmers. (Get Ghirardelli’s at https://www.target.com/p/ghirardelli-intense-dark-chocolate-72-cacao-bar-3-5oz/-/A-12943432 )

(PLAN OF ACTION/GREAT AMER. IDEA) In the meantime, milk chocolate, with less cacao in it, is actually “healthier” than dark chocolate at this point! I like the Lindor milk chocolates,myself.

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