Eleven reasons chocolate may improve your health.
Do you really need a reason to eat more chocolate? Probably not! Chocolate is the ultimate comfort food. Chocolate is one of the simple pleasures in life that has been tied to just about any benefit you can imagine. People claim it can reduce stress, protect your heart, and acts as an aphrodisiac.
Americans spend billions annually on chocolaty treats. Chocolate is produced from cacao beans. Darker chocolates tend to be higher in cacao and the higher the percentage of cacao, the more healthy the chocolate, but also, the more bitter tasting it is. The good news is that dark chocolate actually has several health benefits. Research continues to have health benefits from dark chocolate, and the following is a list that only nips the surface of this list the benefits of chocolate.
- Chocolate is heart-healthy. I am not talking about your favorite milk chocolate bar. I am referring to dark chocolate. Studies have revealed that the flavonoids in chocolate can help your veins and arteries remain healthy and increase blood flow.
- Chocolate increases good cholesterol. High-density lipoproteins or HDL appears to be cardioprotective. Chocolate increases the good and reduces the bad (LDL). Even better than that, it reduced the oxidation of the LDL which can cause plaques in your arteries.
- Chocolate improved brain function. The good news is dark chocolate may also improve the function of your brain. Chocolate not only improves focus, but it also improves cognitive functioning. This effect is independent of caffeine and sugar.
- Chocolate may improve your sex drive. Studies have shown that regular consumption of chocolate increased sex drive and function. Chocolate increases the release of phenylethylamine which has been called the “love hormone” because of its tie to euphoric feelings.
- Chocolate lowers your blood pressure. Similar to the effects on your heart, chocolate dilate blood vessels by increasing nitric oxide. Nitric oxide causes your arteries to relax, and relaxed arteries result in lower blood pressures.
- Chocolate has significant nutritious value. The average 33-gram serving has 2-4 grams of fiber and is a significant source of antioxidants, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, zinc, and selenium. This level of nutrition and it is relatively low in calories with about 150-170 depending on the brand.
- Chocolate may help your workout. One flavanol in chocolate is epicatechin. Research has shown that it increases fitness and muscle strength in mice. The better the workout, the more fit you are and the more calories you burn. A good work out can lave lasting effects all day long.
- Chocolate lowers insulin resistance and the risk of diabetes type 2. Chocolate is sweet, but it does not predispose you to diabetes. Chocolate flavonoids appear to boost your metabolism and enhance insulin function. Anything that lowers insulin sensitivity and boosts your metabolism will reduce your risk for diabetes.
- Chocolate may help induce satiety. Dark chocolate, eaten before a meal, triggers the hormone system that makes you think you are full. Satiety can reduce the amount eaten and prevent snacking. Finishing a meal with the same small trigger could reduce subsequent snacking.
- Chocolate can help you lose weight. There has been a lot of emphasis on having a healthy body weight. Body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference are measures of a healthy weight. Chocolate can actually reduce your BMI which is how you measure up as regards your height versus your weight even with no change to your diet and exercise regime.
- Chocolate may help you live longer. Some research points to a longer, healthier life for those that eat chocolate regularly. I am sure that there are limits.
The bottom line: There is considerable evidence that dark chocolate or cacao provides significant benefits. In fact, not only is it healthy, it can help reduce your meal size, reduce your snacking, and lower your BMI. Dark chocolate with 70 percent cacao or higher is preferred. Chocolate is one food that tastes great while providing health benefits, so I recommend a few squares for dessert daily.