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Posted at 06:15 PM ET, 03/26/2012

Good news about popcorn and chocolate

Hmmm, what will it be, then? Popcorn? Chocolate? Or both?

(Len Spoden - Freelance)
Both delicious treats have made news this week for their potential health benefits.

Unpublished research presented this weekend at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Diego finds that popcorn has higher concentrations of polyphenols than do fruits and vegetables. Polyphenols are plant substances that are believed to serve as antioxidants; those compounds may ward off disease by protecting against harmful chemical reactions in the body. The downside: Most of those polyphenols reside in the hull — the part that gets stuck between our teeth. Also, though we throw around the terms “antioxidants” and “polyphenols,” we don't really know much about how those substance work or how our bodies actually process them. As the chemists say in this video, more research is required.

But the researchers also noted that popcorn is 100 percent whole grain and a terrific source of fiber. But cooking it in oil and adding butter and salt adds calories, fat and sodium that may lessen the snack’s nutritional value. And, they add, fruits and vegetables contain lots of other nutrients our bodies need, so you shouldn’t replace them with popcorn.

(Stephan Savoia - Associated Press)
As for chocolate, research published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine finds a happy association between chocolate consumption and BMI: Of more than 1,000 people surveyed, those who ate chocolate most frequently had the lowest BMIs. That association remained strong even after adjustments were made for potentially confounding factors such as age, gender, mood/depression, physical activity, calorie consumption and consumption of saturated fats. Yet there was no correlation between the AMOUNT of chocolate consumed and BMI. The authors make clear that their work simply detects an association, not a cause-and-effect relationship, between chocolate consumption and body mass. The author concludes, “A randomized trial of chocolate for metabolic benefits in humans may be merited.” So it’s not time to go on The Chocolate Diet just yet.

By  |  06:15 PM ET, 03/26/2012

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