6 Sweet Ways That Chocolate Benefits Your Health
Chocolate fans, rejoice! This sweet stuff may get a lot of flak for being high in calories and sugar, but it also has its share of health benefits. Chocolate derives from flavonoid- and antioxidant-rich cocoa beans, and although these beans are bitter and chalky upon harvesting, the addition of some sugar, milk, and other ingredients result in our beloved milk and dark chocolate candy bars. Dark chocolate, which is less diluted with sugars and dairy products, typically offers more benefits than its lighter counterpart.
Here are 6 health benefits you can get from chowing on rich, delightful chocolate. Enjoy!
It decreases the risk of stroke
A recent Swedish study found that men and women can protect themselves against stroke by consuming moderate amounts of chocolate each week. Over the course of 10 years, the investigation demonstrated a link between higher amounts of chocolate in individuals’ diets and a reduced occurrence of stroke later in life.
For example, the rate of stroke among women who consumed 8.9 grams or more of chocolate every week was only 2.5 per 1,000, compared to a rate of 7.8 per 1,000 among women who consumed less chocolate on average. Comparable results have been shown in the cases of male subjects. This effect is due to the fact that chocolate — particularly dark chocolate — contains high levels of antioxidants called flavonoids, which help to moderate blood flow and prevent clotting.
It helps heart health
Diane Becker, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, suggests that just a few squares of chocolate a day can reduce risk of death by heart attack by up to 50 percent. On top of these findings, studies show that a diet including flavonoid-rich cocoa powder and dark chocolate will decrease levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol found in the body, reducing blood pressure in the process.
LiveScience reports that consuming a moderate amount of dark chocolate daily will also protect your heart from inflammations that have been linked to heart disease.
It protects against skin damage
Research published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology indicates that eating flavonol-rich chocolate will substantially boost your skin’s natural protection against the damaging effects of ultraviolet (UV) rays. Science News confirms that research subjects who drank high-flavonoid cocoa daily over a three-month period showed a marked decrease in reddening and skin damage after exposure to UV light, as compared to those subjects who consumed low levels of flavonol over the same time period.
These findings are critical in helping us determine how to defend our bodies again skin cancer, which is both the most common and most preventable form of cancer in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It lowers the risk of diabetes
Chocolates with moderate to high levels of flavonoids can even act as a safeguard against the onset of obesity and type-2 diabetes, according to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The study in question examined mice on strictly maintained diets, ultimately concluding that the flavonols in cocoa are able to improve glucose tolerance, a helpful quality in preventing type-2 diabetes.
It reduces stress and enhances mood
As Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald wrote for The Huffington Post, chocolate contains tryptophan, a hormone linked closely to serotonin and dopamine. Collectively, these substances can help combat depressive moods. On top of this, chocolate contains phenylethlamine, a substance that Fitzgerald refers to as the “love chemical.”
Live Science reports that consuming a moderate amount of dark chocolate on a daily basis may lower levels of stress hormones such as cortisol in the human body. Subjects in this particular study had rated themselves as “highly stressed” at the beginning of the experiment; after eating 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate each day over the course of two weeks, levels of cortisol and other stress hormones in the subjects had decreased dramatically.
It aids in blood circulation
Chocolate has been proven to facilitate better blood flow, enhancing a number of vital processes throughout the body. For example, increased blood flow to the retina as a result of consuming flavonol-rich chocolate has been linked to sharper eyesight, particularly in low-contrast situations. Further investigation has illustrated that the ingestion of flavonol-rich chocolate may also cause subjects to demonstrate greater mental acuity as a result of increased blood flow to the brain.