"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." The Charles M. Schulz quote must resonate so well with the estimated 1 billion people who eat chocolate every day. Are you going to be indulging your sweet tooth with some cocoa-based treats this International Chocolate Day? You’ll be ecstatic to know there’s much more to one of the world’s favourite pleasures than just being the ultimate comfort food. As well as loyally helping us through breakups and stressful days, there are a number of medically proven ways in which chocolate is good for our health and wellbeing.
Sit down again before you rush to get out the Snickers or Twix though, we’re talking about flavonoid-rich dark chocolate. The chocolate that is made up of at least 70 percent of cacao and has the best quality ingredients, grown with care by farmers (who are hopefully well treated). You should also keep in mind the fewer calorific add-on ingredients you have in your treat, the better. Read on to see six ways the dark stuff is good for you, heart and soul.
1. It's good for your heart and blood circulation
A study from the Netherlands revealed dark chocolate might help prevent clogged arteries. Dark chocolate helps restore suppleness to your arteries and stops white blood cells from gluing on to blood vessels, which causes clogging. Plus, consuming dark chocolate has been shown to reduce your risk of stroke, as proved by a study in Finland and another one in Louisiana State University. The latter found good bacteria in your stomach ferments chocolate, creating compounds that limits inflammation of the cardiovascular tissue, thus reducing the likelihood of a stroke.
The superfood can also reduce levels of “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, while raising levels of the “good” kind, which is effective in lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. Additionally, dark chocolate is rich in antioxidant flavonols, which increase blood flow to the heart and lower blood pressure.
2. It's rich in beneficial things like minerals and antioxidants
Dark chocolate is crammed with beneficial minerals, including potassium, zinc and selenium. What’s more, a 100-gram bar of primarily dark chocolate provides you with just fewer than 70 percent of the RDA of iron. Chocolate in its raw form is the highest antioxidant food on the planet, and antioxidants have countless health benefits. As well as their anti-inflammatory effects, they offer better immunity, can help fight cancer and decrease your chance of suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia. Of course, lots of foods are rich in minerals and antioxidants, but do you really enjoy eating kale as much as chocolate?
3. It's great for your complexion
Surprisingly, dark chocolate is also great for your skin. The healthy sweet treat is rich in flavonols, which can help fight the damage the sun can cause. Those same flavonols can enhance your skin’s hydration and thickness, helping you look younger, as well. What’s more, dark chocolate helps make you feel less anxious, and as stress causes collagen breakdown, munching on some cocoa can reduce those fine lines and crinkles. Enjoy some delicious dark chocolate recipes every day and let us know if you find a difference.
4. It can aid in weight loss
Chocolate can help you get rid of some unwanted kilos, and yes, you did read that correctly. A study by a neuroscientist found that melting a small square of chocolate on your tongue 20 minutes before a meal can help you feel full. This subsequently helps you cut the amount of food you eat when you sit down at the table. Another trick is to eat a brick of dark chocolate after a meal, treating it as if it’s a dessert. This reduces the chances of snacking later on and saves you from eating more calorie-laden sweets like ice cream or cake.
If all that isn’t enough to convince you, research from the University of California hinted that healthy adults who eat chocolate regularly tend to have lower body mass indexes than those who snack on it less often.
5. It improves memory and cognitive performance
As we’ve touched on before, dark chocolate contains flavonols, which are believed to reduce memory loss in older people. As well as improving your working memory, dark chocolate boosts abstract reasoning. We’ve also mentioned cocoa has anti-inflammatory qualities and these are active in treating brain injuries like concussion.
Probably the best time to have your choco-fix is after lunch, when you’re feeling that afternoon slump. Dark chocolate is a great pick-me-up as it can contain caffeine, which stimulates the central nervous system and helps you function better cognitively.
6. It’s a mood-booster
You’re not fantasising, your terrible day at the office does take a turn for the better when you eat some chocolate. Dark chocolate, particularly the kind that is made up of 85 percent cacao, contains tryptophan, which is linked to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel better. Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which is the same chemical that your brain creates when you’re falling in love. As all the love birds out there know, PEA encourages your brain to release feel-good endorphins.
Plus, as pointed out before, eating dark chocolate daily can impact the physical effects of stress on the body, a fact studies have confirmed. The studies have shown a range of positive results, including a decreased urinary excretion of stress hormones.