Giving In To That Chocolate Craving Can Benefit Your Health
We’re all aware that we should be eating more fruit and vegetables because they are loaded with vitamins and antioxidants and blah, blah, blah… but chocolate? Yes. Chocolate.
Study after study proves that cacao, the source of the sweet’s distinct taste, is packed with healthy chemicals like flavonoids, antioxidants and theobromine. The only problem? Cacao on its own is bitter, chalky, nasty stuff. Which is why, most often, it is packed with other ingredients that can be high in calories, fat and sugar.
That said, treating yourself to a small amount of chocolate regularly is definitely a health message we can get behind.
Researchers have known for nearly 20 years that flavanoid-rich dark chocolate lowers blood pressure and has other beneficial effects on blood flow, which is good for your heart. One of the reasons dark chocolate is especially heart-healthy is its inflammation-fighting properties.
“The chemical in cocoa beans has a biochemical effect similar to aspirin in reducing platelet clumping, which can be fatal if a clot forms and blocks a blood vessel, causing a heart attack,”
says Diane Becker, M.P.H., Sc.D., a professor at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health, in a release.
In one study, researchers found that consuming dark chocolate reduced systolic blood pressure by −2.9 (1.6) mm Hg (P < .001) and diastolic blood pressure by −1.9 (1.0) mm Hg (P < .001), effectively and reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke by 39%, without changes in body weight.
It Fills You Up
You’re craving chocolate, but you’re on a diet. What do you do?
Rather than snacking on everything else in your fridge first, treat yourself to a small bite of dark chocolate. In addition to satisfying that craving, dark chocolate is rich in fiber, so it can actually help keep you full. And, according to a small study from the University of Copenhagen, may even reduce cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods.
Stay Alert (and Get Smarter!)
The flavanols found in chocolate increase the flow of blood to the brain.
In a small study by the British Psychological Society, scientists asked group of adults to do simple math, subtracting 3 from a randomly generated number. The findings show that not only could they do the calculations more quickly and more accurately after eating the chocolate, but they did not get as tired doing the calculations if they had been given the cocoa drink, despite being asked to do them over and over for an hour!
Reeling it in… researchers gave the study participants 500mg of flavanol, which equals about 5 bars of chocolate. Yikes!
Other researchers from Oxford University and Norway looked at chocolate’s long-term effects on the brain by studying the diets of more than 2,000 people over age 70. They found that those who consumed flavanol-rich chocolate, wine, or tea scored significantly higher on cognitive tests than those who didn’t.
It’s Good for Your Skin
We’re not saying you can put down the SPF, but dark chocolate does contain a type of antioxidants called flavonoids that your bodies natural defenses from the sun’s UV rays. It also was found to increase blood flow to cutaneous and subcutaneous tissues, and increase in skin density and hydration. Simply put, eating dark chocolate regularly equals softer, smoother skin!
Quiet Your Cough
One study from the National Heart and Lung Institute in the UK found that chocolate quieted coughs almost as well as codeine, thanks to the theobromine it contains. This chemical, responsible for chocolate’s feel-good effect, may suppress activity in a part of the brain called the vagus nerve.
It Makes You Happy!
‘Nuf said, right? Research shows chocolate can increase dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. Chocolate also contains tryptophan, a precursor of serotonin, which can help with depression, and phenylethylamine, known as the “love chemical.”
And if that wasn’t enough, Swiss scientists (who else?) found that an ounce and a half of dark chocolate every day can significantly reduce stress hormone levels.