By DAILY MAIL REPORTER
Last updated at 1:16 AM on 8th February 2011
It is the news that chocoholics have been waiting for: chocolate has been classed as a superfood.
And although strictly speaking cocoa comes from a seed rather than a fruit, the researchers say that should not stop one of our favourite sweet treats from joining the legions of superfruits.
Scientists at Hershey’s centre for health and nutrition compared the amount of antioxidants in a blueberry, cranberry, pomegranate and acai fruit juices.
Levels in 40g bars of dark chocolate and in mugs of cocoa and drinking chocolate were also analysed.
The small bars of dark chocolate came out top in all the tests, the Chemistry Central Journal reports.
Cocoa and dark chocolate triumphed in tests for flavanols, an antioxidant family credited with feats from preventing wrinkles to cutting the risk of heart disease.
Drinking chocolate, however, came last in all the tests, likely due to the antioxidants being stripped out during processing.
Dr Debra Miller, the study’s senior author, said that we need to look past ‘macronutrients’ like fat and protein when assessing the nutritional value of chocolate.
She said: ‘Cocoa powder provides nutritive value beyond that derived from its macronutrient composition.
‘Cocoa seeds should be considered a “superfruit” and products derived from cocoa seed extracts, such as natural cocoa powder and dark chocolate as “superfoods”.’
Other recent research has shown that just a chunk of dark chocolate a day could cut the risk of heart disease by up to a third.
Just 6.7g a day, or a quarter of an ounce, proved optimum for heart health.
Researchers have even gone as far as to claim that the smell of chocolate alone can protect against colds.
But, sadly for chocolate lovers, the treat’s high fat and sugar content means dieticians recommend it is eaten as part of a balanced diet, rich in less appealing foods such a brown rice, pulses and fruit and vegetables.
Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, described the latest research as ‘a bit of fun’.
He added: ‘It may be that dark chocolate does have more antioxidants than some terrific-sounding fruits.
‘It is a case of everything in moderation.’
Copyright © 2011 Daily Mail