Chocolate rocks – and now you have an excuse to indulge…..your HEALTH!
So we have Valentine’s Day in February and National Chocolate Day in October, and it got me thinking….Doesn’t it sometimes feel like it’s become impossible to eat your favorite or really delicious foods without feeling guilty? I mean, there’s even a term for it…guilty pleasures. Well, today I come bearing some great news. There is one guilty pleasure that we can all enjoy with a totally clear conscience. It’s chocolate. Yes, CHOCOLATE.
Or, dark chocolate, to be more specific. Dark chocolate actually has many health benefits, enough that we can now move it over to the “things you really SHOULD eat” category.
Dark chocolate is truly what we call a Superfood. It has so many amazing benefits, that I could literally be here all day telling you about them. Here are just 5 that you really must know about….
Chocolate Can Lower Your Blood Pressure, Giving You Cardiac and Stroke Protection.
According to research, chocolate has a positive influence on your vascular system. Dark chocolate literally lowers your blood pressure, which lowers your risk of a stroke or a heart attack.
In 2003, a German study found that people with moderately high blood pressure were able to lower their numbers by eating chocolate. The study had people eat 100 grams of dark chocolate every single day for 2 weeks. They found an average drop of 2 points for the diastolic (bottom) number, and an average 5 point drop in the systolic (top) number.
There have also been other studies that have shown that chocolate increases blood flow to the heart and brain and makes the blood less likely to clot. German researchers have proven that even with eating as little as one dark chocolate Hershey Kiss every day (just 30 calories), blood pressure will still lower over time.
Chocolate Reduces Your Risk of Cancer.
Dark chocolate has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer. In a study published in the Molecular Nutrition Journal, the Science and Technology Institute of Food and Nutrition found that chocolate was able to stop the acceleration of cancer cells which would lead to tumor development. They also found a significantly higher degree of destruction of cancerous tissue.
This and many other studies, however, found that all chocolates are not created equal. It turns out that milk chocolate is NOT a good option. Milk chocolate has actually been found to promote cancer, and is loaded with entirely too much saturated fat and sugar. Milk chocolate also does not contain the properties that make the dark variety so healthy.
Chocolate Significantly Improves Brain Power.
Dark chocolate not only increases your blood flow, but in doing so, it also pumps more blood and oxygen to your brain, which allows you to think more clearly and reduces the effects of aging on your brain.
A study done at the University of Nottingham found that by drinking cocoa rich in flavanols (the key ingredient in dark chocolate) people had significant blood flow to the most important parts of the brain, improving cognitive skills, for approximately 3 hours. The chocolate made the the people in the study feel more alert, more focused, and gave them a real mental boost.
Chocolate Literally Makes You Feel Better.
Most chocolate lovers say that eating chocolate makes them feel better. But there is actually a scientific reason for this. There is a chemical in dark chocolate (phenylethylamine) that contains seratonin, which boosts endorphins, giving many people the feeling of being in love. In fact, scientists say that melting a piece of chocolate in your mouth produces a feeling of pleasure that lasts longer than the pleasure from passionate kissing! Maybe this is why chocolate has such a reputation of being the universal aphrodisiac.
The seratonin and increase of endorphins make chocolate the perfect natural anti-depressant. But, it has also been found to ease the symptoms of PMS and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Chocolate Improves Your Cholesterol Levels.
Scientists at Penn State put out a report about their study of chocolate and cholesterol levels. They found that chocolate made the LDL (bad cholesterol) levels lower significantly, while at the same time, increasing the HDL (good cholesterol levels). The overall cholesterol levels were found to decrease marginally.
So, this Valentine’s Day, there is no need to feel guilty about giving or receiving chocolate. You just need to follow a few simple rules to ensure that you are getting the most health benefits out of your favorite treat…
- Eat chocolate that contains at least 65% cocoa…organic is much better for you.
- Avoid milk chocolate, or anything that is full of sugar, milk, and fat…generally, the darker the chocolate, the better it is for you.
- Healthy dark chocolate is semi sweet…and the more bitter it is, the better it is for you.
- The more non-fat cocoa solids a chocolate product contains, the more antioxidants it tends to contribute.
- If the chocolate contains fat ingredients other than cocoa butter, it might contain the more harmful saturated fats and trans fats.
- Moderation! You can eat it every single day, but eat small amounts.