Chocolate is not just a guilty pleasure anymore. There is a reason the Aztec called it "the drink of the Gods." Some research has shown that the consumption of cocoa, especially the dark type, has numerous health benefits. Due to its high antioxidant content, among the highest found in nature, cocoa may help fight cardiovascular and neurological diseases. Here are the main five reasons chocolate is good for your health:
1. It may prevent cancer
Cocoa, the main ingredient in dark chocolate, contains more antioxidants per gram than fruit and even red wine. Antioxidants protect cells by neutralizing the free radicals that may cause cancer and speed up aging. The types of antioxidants found in chocolate are called flavanols, a highly potent class of substances which help maintain heart and brain health. Due to their high content of antioxidants, cacao seeds are considered a "superfruit."
2. It boosts brain power
Flavanols found in cocoa can dilate blood vessels and increase blood flow to key brain areas for up to three hours after consumption. The increased blood flow could be important for increasing brain performance and combating fatigue, sleep deprivation, and the effects of aging.
3. It lowers the risk of heart disease
According to the Mayo Clinic antioxidants found in cocoa reduce cell damage that is associated with heart disease. These flavanols may also help lower blood pressure and improve vascular function. Dark chocolate is higher in antioxidants than milk chocolate, so it is of much greater benefit.
4. It lowers risk of stroke
In a study performed in Sweden, 30,000 men were given a questionnaire assessing the frequency of several foods in their diet. Researchers found that those who ate the most chocolate had a 17 percent lower risk of stroke compared with those who ate no chocolate at all. The effect seems to be related to the anticlotting properties of the flavanols.
5. It may promote weight loss
A 2012 study by Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD out of the Department of Medicine at University of California, San Diego showed that people who ate small amounts of dark chocolate more times a week had a lower body mass index than those who ate less. This was despite the fact that they consumed more calories, and they exercised as much as those who did not eat chocolate. This suggests that chocolate may contain substances which boost fat loss.
Eating chocolate in moderate amounts can improve your health. Due to its high concentration of flavanols, chocolate may help maintain a healthy cardiovascular system and brain, while also boosting brain power. If you decide to enjoy the health benefits and the delicious taste of chocolate, opt for the darkest type available, which has the highest content of bioactive substances.
Nutrition and Health Info-Sheet by UC Cooperative Extension Center for Health and Nutrition Research, Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis
Article From Inter Valley Health Plan