We live in an era, where a lot of emphases is laid on healthy eating and cats, w see differently informs on billboards and social media telling us to stay away from sweet foods, chocolates, pizza, and fast foods. What if I tell you that you can eat your delicious chocolate, without compromising your health.
Despite the different pieces of information about chocolates, different types of chocolates, especially dark chocolates, have a lot of medical benefits for our bodies. Moderation is the key to getting the best out of anything in life, eat them in moderation to get the best benefits out of this excellent snacks.
The next time you eat a piece of chocolate, you may not have to feel overly guilty about it. Despite its bad reputation for causing weight gain, there are some health benefits associated with this delicious treat.
Chocolate is made from tropical Theobroma cacao tree seeds, and its earliest use dates back to the Olmec civilization in Mesoamerica.
After the European discovery of the Americas, chocolate became very popular in the wider world, and its demand exploded.
Chocolate has since become an incredibly popular food product that millions indulge in every day, thanks to its unique, creamy, and sweet taste.
But what effect does eating chocolate have on our health? This is the most commonly asked question about chocolate.
Key Facts About Chocolate
- In the past, chocolate consumption has been associated with conditions such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, and hypertension.
- Chocolate has been praised by some experts for its antioxidant content.
- Some studies have suggested chocolate could lower cholesterol levels and prevent memory decline.
- Chocolate contains a large number of calories.
- The average American consumes around 4.5 kg of chocolate each year.
12 Health Benefits of Eating Chocolate
Over the years, chocolate has received a lot of bad press because of its fat content; its consumption has been associated with acne, obesity, high Blood pressure, coronary heart disease and Diabetes.
However, according to Rashed Latif, who published a review of chocolate’s health effects in the Netherlands Journal of Medicine, it’s not all bad news.
He says “the recent discovery of biologically active phenolic compounds in cocoa has changed this perception and stimulated research on its effects in aging, oxidative stress, blood pressure regulation, and Atherosclerosis.
Today, chocolate is lauded for its tremendous Antioxidant potentials potential. The higher the cocoa content, the more health benefits there are and the less sugar content, which is better for overall health.
The potential benefits of eating chocolate may include:
- Lowering Cholesterol Levels
- Preventing Cognitive Decline
- Reducing the Risk of Cardiovascular Problems
It is important to note that the possible health benefits mentioned below came from one-off studies, this means that more research will be necessary before they are proven to be correct. However, they certainly make interesting reading
The Most Important Benefits of Chocolates Include:
1. Reduced Cholesterol Level
According to one study, published in The Journal of Nutrition, chocolate consumption might help reduce low-density lipoprotein(LDL) cholesterol levels, also known as “bad fats. The team of researchers set out to investigate whether chocolate bars containing plant sterols (PS) and cocoa flavanols (CF) have any effect on cholesterol levels.
The study authors wrote, “results indicate that regular consumption of chocolate bars containing PS and CF, as part of a low-fat diet, may support cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol and improving blood pressure. Consuming dark chocolate can improve several significant risk factors for heart disease.
In a controlled trial, cocoa powder was found to decrease oxidized LDL cholesterol in men significantly.
It also increased HDL and lowered total LDL in men with elevated cholesterol.
Oxidized LDL means that the LDL (“bad” cholesterol) has reacted with free radicals.
This makes the LDL particle itself reactive and capable of damaging other tissues… such as the lining of the arteries in your heart.
It makes perfect sense that cocoa lowers oxidized LDL. It contains an abundance of powerful antioxidants that do make it into the bloodstream and protect lipoproteins against oxidative damage.
Dark chocolate can also reduce insulin resistance, which is another common risk factor for many diseases like heart disease and diabetes
2. Increased Memory and Prevention of Alzheimer Disease
Scientists at Harvard Medical School suggest that drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day could help keep the brain healthy and reduce memory decline in older people.
The researchers found that hot chocolate helped enhanced blood flow to parts of the brain where it was needed. This increased blood flow reduces the risk of memory loss and Alzheimer disease.
In a further study, published in 2014, researchers found that a cocoa extract – called lavado – could, perhaps, reduce or prevent damage to nerve pathways observed in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. This means that symptoms of the condition – such as cognitive decline – could be slowed.
3. Cardiovascular Benefits
Research, published in The BMJ, suggests that consuming chocolate could help lower the risk of developing heart disease by one -third The report was presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Paris, France. The research concluded that moderate chocolate consumption could provide cardiovascular benefits to our body. The compounds in dark chocolate appear to be highly protective against the oxidation of LDL.
In the long term, this should cause much less cholesterol to lodge in the arteries, and we should see a lower risk of heart disease over the long term.
It turns out that we have several long-term observational studies that show a reasonably drastic improvement.
In a study of 470 senior men, cocoa was found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular death by a whopping 50% over a 15 year period.
Another study revealed that eating chocolate 2 or more times per week lowered the risk of having calcified plaque in the arteries by 32%. Eating chocolate less frequently had no effect
Another study showed that chocolate 5+ times per week lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease by 57%
Of course, these 3 studies are so-called observational studies that can not prove that it was the chocolate that caused the reduction in risk.
However, given that we have a biological mechanism (lower blood pressure and oxidized LDL), then I find it plausible that regular consumption of dark chocolate can, in fact, reduce the risk of heart disease.
4. Reduced Stroke
Canadian scientists carried out a study involving 44,489 individuals and found that people eating chocolate were 22 percent less likely to suffer a stroke than those who didn’t. Also, those who had a stroke but regularly consumed chocolate were 46 percent less likely to die as a result.
In a further study, published in the journal Heart in 2015, researchers tracked the impact of diet on the long-term health of 25,000 men and women. The findings suggested that eating up to 100 grams of chocolate each day may be linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.
5. Pregnant Women
Good news for expectant mothers: eating
30g of chocolate every day during pregnancy might benefit fetal growth and development. This is the conclusion of a study presented at the 2016 Pregnancy Meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine in Atlanta, GA.
6. Increased Cognitive Function
A study published in the journal Appetite, suggests eating chocolate at least once weekly has the potential to improve cognitive function
7. Increased Athletic Performance
Too sporty to indulge in chocolate? Think again, says research published in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. The findings suggest that Moderate consumption of dark chocolate might improve performance in fitness training.
8. Reduce Diabetes and Heart Diseases
In the future, could a doctor’s visit result in a prescription for chocolate? According to a new study, it is possible. Researchers suggest that consuming a small amount of chocolate every day could lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
9. Highly Nutritious
If you buy quality dark chocolate with a high cocoa content, then it is quite nutritious.
It contains a decent amount of soluble fiber and is loaded with minerals.
A 100-gram bar of dark chocolate with 70-85% cocoa contains
- 11 grams of fiber.
- 67% of the RDA for Iron.
- 58% of the RDA for Magnesium.
- 89% of the RDA for Copper.
- 98% of the RDA for Manganese.
- It also has plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium.
Of course, 100 grams (3.5 ounces) is a relatively large amount and not something you should be consuming daily. All these nutrients also come with 600 calories and moderate amounts of sugar.
For this reason, dark chocolate is best consumed in moderation.
The fatty acid profile of cocoa and dark chocolate is excellent. The fats are mostly saturated and monounsaturated, with small amounts of polyunsaturates.
It also contains stimulants like caffeine and theobromine but is unlikely to keep you awake at night as the amount of caffeine is very small compared to coffee. Quality dark chocolate is rich in Fiber, Iron, Magnesium, Copper, Manganese, and a few other minerals.
10. High Antioxidant Properties
Have you ever heard of a measure called ORAC?
ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. It is a measure of the antioxidant activity of foods.
Researchers pit a bunch of free radicals (bad) against a sample of food and see how well the antioxidants in the food can “disarm” them.
The biological relevance of this metric is questioned because it’s done in a test tube and may not have the same effect on the body.
However, I think it is worth mentioning that raw, unprocessed cocoa beans are among the highest scoring foods that have been tested.
Dark chocolate is loaded with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants. These include polyphenols, flavanols, catechins, among others.
One study showed that cocoa and dark chocolate contained more antioxidant activity, polyphenols, and flavanols than other fruits they tested, which included Blueberries and Acai berries
11. Reduced Risk of Hypertension
The flavanols in dark chocolate can stimulate the endothelium, the lining of arteries, to produce Nitric Oxide (NO), which is a
One of the functions of NO is to send signals to the arteries to relax, which lowers resistance to blood flow and therefore reduces blood pressure.
There are many controlled trials showing that cocoa and dark chocolate can improve blood flow and lower blood pressure, but the effects are usually mild
However, there is also one study in people with elevated blood pressure that showed no effect, so take all this with a grain of salt
12. Skin Protection
The bioactive compounds in dark chocolate may also be excellent for your skin
The flavonols can protect against sun-induced damage, improve blood flow to the skin and increase skin density and hydration.
The minimal erythemal dose (MED) is the minimum amount of UVB rays required to cause redness in the skin, 24 hours after exposure.
In one study of 30 people, the MED more than doubled after consuming dark chocolate high in flavanols for 12 weeks
If you’re planning on a beach vacation, consider loading up on dark chocolate in the prior weeks and months.
There is considerable evidence that cocoa can provide compelling health benefits, being especially protective against cardiovascular disease.
But of course, this doesn’t mean people should go all out and consume lots of chocolate every day. It is still loaded with calories and easy to overeat on. Maybe have a square or two after dinner and try to savor them.
Be aware that a lot of the chocolate on the market is crap. You need to choose quality stuff like organic, dark chocolate with 70% or higher cocoa content.
Dark chocolates often contain some sugar, but the amounts are usually small and the darker the chocolate, the less sugar it will contain.
There are of course other benefits to chocolate that I have not mentioned, such as the exceptional taste. If you have any unusual reaction after chocolate consumption, contact your nearest doctor.
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