9 Proven Health Benefits Of Chocolate: Bitter Is Better

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Why Is Chocolate Good For Health?

Disregarding popular belief, you should have dark chocolate daily. With its antioxidants, chocolate improves blood circulation, boosts immunity, lowers stress, and even halts age-related memory loss. It's good for diabetics since it reduces insulin resistance, for pregnant women, and for weight watchers. Go for chocolates with at least 70% cocoa and have at most 4 squares a day.

Reportedly, the Aztecs valued the cacao beans, which give you chocolate, so highly that they used them as currency.

Every time you reach out for the sinful goodness that is chocolate, does your guilty mind rap you sharply on the knuckles? Empty calories! High cholesterol! Belly fat! Time you put your mind to rest, if it’s dark chocolate you love. Thankfully for the chocoholics among us, scientists have found facts that acquit dark chocolate of most of these charges. It is full of calories, but not empty calories. And it can even help you lose a few pounds. Here’s a list of health benefits of chocolate so that you can continue to champion the cause. Not a fan? We believe you will find reasons here to change your mind.

1. Increases Blood Circulation

If your favorite chocolate contains over 60% cocoa, then it is good for your heart.

If you frequently experience numbness in your hands and legs, then maybe it’s time to replace your bitter medication with some bitter chocolate! Numbness is caused due to poor blood circulation in the body. And eating dark chocolate can significantly increase blood circulation! The antioxidants (or flavonoids) present in dark chocolate also maintain arterial function and protect your heart from stroke.1 2 3

2. Boosts Immunity

An apple a day keeps the doctor away? Sure, but so does dark chocolate, and in a might we say tastier way. Dark chocolate can boost your immunity and can perhaps even compete with the good, old apple! Dark chocolate contains cocoa, which has potent antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties.4 Not really a fan of bitter chocolate? Don’t worry, even a regular bar of white chocolate is filled with minerals that our body requires. One bar contains 722 mg potassium, 230 mg magnesium, and small quantities of other minerals like iron, manganese, copper, zinc, and selenium. And these minerals, especially magnesium,5 can keep your immune system strong and healthy!

3. Assists Weight Loss

As a child, one of the most common warnings thrown at us was that chocolate makes us put on extra pounds. And even now, whenever we’re offered a bar of chocolate, we still reluctantly refuse it because we don’t want to gain weight. But what if we told you that it’s a myth and chocolate can actually help you reduce weight? By decreasing the gene activity involved in fatty acid synthesis, dark chocolate increases metabolism and makes you quickly feel full and satisfied. Resveratrol, an antioxidant found in dark chocolate, also helps you lose weight and manage conditions like obesity and diabetes.6 Well, maybe it’s high time you add chocolate to your weight-loss diet!

4. Reduces Stress

You don’t need us to tell you this. Stress is the root of several other problems that affect our health, skin, and hair. And eating 40 g chocolate (white or dark) every day for 2 weeks considerably reduced stress levels in highly stressed medical students. Interestingly, the correlation was more evident in women than men.

Yes, chocolate can reduce stress. But don’t depend on it. Let it be one among the many things you can do to lower stress.

Chocolate, as observed by the study, blunts the body’s response to the brain’s signals of stress and reduces the production of the stress hormone, cortisol.7 This is probably why we feel chocolate is a must-have after a breakup or a rough day at work!

5. Heightens Brain Function

Chocolate isn’t just for the youngsters – middle-aged individuals and seniors can also reap its benefits. Dark chocolate contains epicatechin, a type of flavonoids, which are antioxidants that reduce inflammation of the nerves.8 Flavonoids are also known to reduce memory loss that accompanies old age. In fact, they can reverse these problems to a great extent and stop dementia in its track!9

While chocolates do help brain function, you can only eat a limited quantity in a day. Have other brain-healthy foods like blueberries, apples, and green tea.

A small-scale study even found that people who ate high-flavonoid meals (a large part of the meals made of cocoa flavonols, 138 mg epicatechin, to be precise) performed in a memory test like people 20–30 years younger than them would.10 Now to avail these benefits, you would have to eat around 300 g chocolates daily, which is way too much. So, along with chocolates, have blueberries, apples, and green tea as well.

Dark chocolate also plays a significant role in improving cognitive and nerve function. It contains theobromine, a caffeine-like stimulant, that can enhance your mood and increase your interest in performing everyday tasks.11 12

6. Reduces The Risk Of Diabetes

Look for dark chocolate with 70% cocoa. Have a couple blocks after a meal when you are already full, and chew slowly. This will increase your satisfaction and make overeating unlikely.

Most people believe that you can’t eat chocolate if you are at risk of diabetes, but this couldn’t be further from the truth! In fact, eating dark chocolate in moderate quantities can reduce your risk of diabetes! Chocolate increases your insulin sensitivity and decreases blood pressure levels.13 Of course, the keyword here is moderate, because dark chocolate also contains sugar. It isn’t wise to have as much milk chocolate though. It contains more sugar.

7. Makes Babies Happier

If you’re pregnant, then eating chocolates is beneficial not only for you but also the baby. Babies born to mothers who have consumed chocolate during their pregnancy are generally happier and more active. If you are stressed, eating chocolate can also reduce the anxiousness that might be passed on to your child.14 There’s the question about gestational diabetes, of course. But if you eat dark chocolate in moderation and don’t compromise on exercise, you have nothing to worry about.

8. Increases Sex Drive

Remember all those advertisements where innocent love slowly blossoms into passion once the couple bites into a bar of chocolate? It may not be all gimmick. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which is the same chemical produced in the brain when two people fall in love. Although some researchers dismiss the association between chocolate and sex drive as a placebo effect, many users feel that chocolate does heighten sexual desire.15

9. Can Keep Sunburns Away

Not many of us know that loading up on chocolates regularly keeps sunburn off the skin. But as a small-scale study found out, flavonoids in chocolates increase your skin’s tolerance to UV rays. So people who ate 20 g dark chocolate every day for 12 weeks needed twice as much UVB rays to get burned than those who didn’t eat the chocolates.16 The flavonoids also keep the skin hydrated and well-nourished.

What Type Of Chocolate Should You Have?

Choose chocolates that are at least 70% dark – that is they contain 70% cocoa. The bitter the chocolate, the better, because it is the flavonoids that make chocolate bitter. Also look out for low-fat varieties.

Avoid milk and white chocolates which have very little flavonoids and much more sugar and fat. Diabetic chocolate may not really help because they contain other types of sugars.

Having chocolates does not, however, mean having chocolate pastries and brownies made of refined flour, trans fats, and loads of sugar.

How Much Chocolate Should You Have A day? 

Eat dark chocolate in moderation. Most studies use at least 1 oz  or about 30 g a day. But that amount also packs in quite a bit of sugar and calories. For daily consumption, stay within 3 squares of a bar.

Remember to compensate for the chocolate calories by reducing other high-calorie foods from your diet. But remember, chocolate shouldn’t replace fresh fruit and vegetables.

References   [ + ]

1.Eating chocolate may slightly lower your risk of stroke. NHS, Choices.
2.Dark Chocolate and Blood Flow. University of Delaware, College of Health Sciences.
3.Vlachopoulos, Charalambos, Nikolaos Alexopoulos, and Christodoulos Stefanadis. “Effect of dark chocolate on arterial function in healthy individuals: cocoa instead of ambrosia?.” Current hypertension reports 8, no. 3 (2006): 205-211.
4.Massot-Cladera, Malén, Àngels Franch i Masferrer, M. Cristina Castellote i Bargalló, Margarida Castell, and Francisco J. Pérez-Cano. “The effects of cocoa on the immune system.” Frontiers in Pharmacology, 2013, vol. 4, num. 71 (2013).
5.McCoy, H., and M. A. Kenney. “Magnesium and immune function: recent findings.” Magnesium research 5, no. 4 (1992): 281-293.
6.Farhat, Grace, Sandra Drummond, Lorna Fyfe, and Emad AS Al‐Dujaili. “Dark chocolate: an obesity paradox or a culprit for weight gain?.” Phytotherapy research 28, no. 6 (2014): 791-797.
7.Al Sunni, Ahmed, and Rabia Latif. “Effects of chocolate intake on perceived stress; a controlled clinical study.” International journal of health sciences 8, no. 4 (2014): 393.
8.Spencer, Jeremy PE. “Flavonoids: modulators of brain function?.” British Journal of Nutrition 99, no. E-S1 (2008): ES60-ES77.
9.Could Flavanols Reverse Age-Related Memory Decline?. National Institutes Of Health.
10.Brickman, Adam M., Usman A. Khan, Frank A. Provenzano, Lok-Kin Yeung, Wendy Suzuki, Hagen Schroeter, Melanie Wall, Richard P. Sloan, and Scott A. Small. “Enhancing dentate gyrus function with dietary flavanols improves cognition in older adults.” Nature neuroscience 17, no. 12 (2014): 1798-1803.
11.Scholey, Andrew, and Lauren Owen. “Effects of chocolate on cognitive function and mood: a systematic review.” Nutrition reviews 71, no. 10 (2013): 665-681.
12.Health Benefits of Cocoa and Dark Chocolate. The University of The West Indies.
13.Grassi, Davide, Cristina Lippi, Stefano Necozione, Giovambattista Desideri, and Claudio Ferri. “Short-term administration of dark chocolate is followed by a significant increase in insulin sensitivity and a decrease in blood pressure in healthy persons.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 81, no. 3 (2005): 611-614.
14.Räikkönen, Katri, Anu-Katriina Pesonen, Anna-Liisa Järvenpää, and Timo E. Strandberg. “Sweet babies: chocolate consumption during pregnancy and infant temperament at six months.” Early human development 76, no. 2 (2004): 139-145.
15.Afoakwa, Emmanuel O. “Cocoa and chocolate consumption-are there aphrodisiac and other benefits for human health?: invited review.” South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition 21, no. 3 (2008): 107-113.
16.Williams, Stefanie, Slobodanka Tamburic, and Carmel Lally. “Eating chocolate can significantly protect the skin from UV light.” Journal of cosmetic dermatology 8, no. 3 (2009): 169-173.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

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