Good news for chocaholics: Numerous scientific studies have now demonstrated just how healthy chocolate can be. It’s important to remember however that it’s the cacao in chocolate that has the benefits. While chocolate has often been given a bad rap and associated with weight gain and unhealthy lifestyle, the real reason for this is actually not the cacao at all but is the high sugar content of some chocolate products. Cacao is highly nutritious. The darker the chocolate (i.e. the higher the cacao content), the lower it typically is in sugar and the healthier it is for you.

Below are 7 reasons, backed by scientific research, why chocolate may be good for you:

#1: Chocolate Is Heart-Healthy
The cocoa/cacao bean is an extremely rich source of many essential minerals, including magnesium, copper, potassium and iron. Most of these minerals may affect vascular health and function, improving cocoa’s nutritional effects. Studies published in 2012 and 2014 have demonstrated that consuming dark chocolate helps improve blood circulation by dilating the blood vessels as well as reducing the risk for heart failure and improving blood pressure – all positives in keeping a healthy heart. [1][2]

#2: Chocolate Can Actually Help You Lose Weight
Another myth debunked by science! Chocolate does not cause weight gain and strangely, it may even help you shed those unwanted pounds. Gaining weight is associated with control problems, and interestingly chocolate has been demonstrated by scientific research to improve control in the long-term, with periodic consumption of chocolate while a person is on a diet. Think of it as positive reinforcement. This technique has been found to contribute to better weight loss and maintenance. [3]

#3: Chocolate May Reduce Diabetic Risk
One of the biggest no-no’s in managing diabetes is sweets. Chocolate consumption has however been shown to be inversely related to diabetic risk, as well as having the ability to improve tissue health and reduce oxidative stress caused by high blood sugar levels. [4] According to a 2011 review of studies of chocolate and human health, the antioxidant effects of the cocoa components may beneficially influence insulin resistance and in turn reduce the risk for diabetes. [5]

#4: Chocolate Can Improve Your Skin
It is not a well-known fact that chocolate isn’t the culprit when it comes to breakouts. Pimples and zits are caused by your skin producing too much sebum, which can be attributed to hormonal imbalance. The phenolic, flavonoid and total antioxidant capacities of cocoa have been found to be higher than that of other phytochemical-rich foods. A study in 2014 actually revealed that cacao’s bioactive compounds can protect your skin and make it look smoother, younger, and healthier. [6]

#5: Chocolate Is Mood Enhancing
In 1996, researchers discovered a substance called anandamide in chocolate. They also detected the presence of two substances that might mimic the effects of anandamide, N-oleoylethanolamine and N-linoleoylethanolamine. [7] Anandamide is actually a mild euphoriant. Increasing the brain’s anandamide levels is thought possibly able to help anxiety and depression. It’s also possible that anandamide may play a role in pain suppression, though the mechanism for this appears not to be fully understood yet. [8]

#6: Dark Chocolate Can Be Used As A Cough Suppressant
According to a trial lead by Imperial College London, dark chocolate can be used as a cough suppressant. The theobromine compound found in chocolate is able to effective soothe persistent coughing. [9] This supports the idea that chocolate can be used to manage cough in people with chronic respiratory problems like lung cancer.

#7: Chocolate Can Improve Memory And Alertness
Chocolate is rich in flavonoids, which are potent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory substances. Not only can flavonoids help improve cardiovascular health, they also have very positive impacts on neurological health, boosting your mood, memory and alertness. The next time you take a study break, try to eat a piece of chocolate! [10] Raw cacao also make an excellent snack for a road trip as it may contribute to alertness without the “caffeine crash”.

Further Tips:
For the best possible results, you could skip the sugar entirely and head straight for raw cacao, which although regarded as a “superfood” is surprisingly bitter and strong tasting. You could add raw cacao nibs to other foods – have you tried them with banana, ice creams or breakfast cereals? Really good. Next best thing could be a high quality organic dark chocolate with a high cacao percentage (85%+). Or, you can even learn how to make your own amazing organic raw chocolates using healthier natural sweeteners.

[1] Petrone, A., Gaziano, J. & Djousse, L. (2014). Chocolate consumption and risk of heart failure in the Physicians’ Health Study.
[2] Monahan, K. (2012). Effect of cocoa/chocolate ingestion on brachial artery flow-mediated dilation and its relevance to cardiovascular health and disease in humans.
[3] Kroese, F., Evers, C., & De Ridder, D. (2009). How chocolate keeps you slim. The effect of food temptations on weight watching goal importance, intentions, and eating behavior.
[4] Mellor, D., et. al. (2013). High-polyphenol chocolate reduces endothelial dysfunction and oxidative stress during acute transient hyperglycaemia in Type 2 diabetes: a pilot randomized controlled trial.
[5] Katz DL, Doughty K, Ali A. Cocoa and chocolate in human health and disease (2011).
[6] Scapaginini, G., et. al. (2014). Cocoa bioactive compounds: significance and potential for the maintenance of skin health.
[8] Clapper JR et. al., Anandamide suppresses pain initiation through a peripheral endocannabinoid mechanism. (2010)
[9] BBC News (2004). Chocolate could be cough medicine.
[10] Sokolov, A., et. al. (2013). Chocolate and the brain: neurobiological impact of cocoa flavanols on cognition and behavior.


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