Six Amazing, Surprising Benefits of Chocolate
Did you get chocolate for Valentine’s day? Here's the good news - it can actually be beneficial to your health.
Now that I got your attention, that statement comes with a little asterisk. The studies that boast of chocolate’s amazing health benefits are not referring to your average store-bought chocolate bar, but high-quality dark chocolate with a high concentration of cacao, which is not the same as cocoa.
Raw cacao is made by cold-pressing unroasted cacao beans. The process keeps the living enzymes in the cacao and removes the fat or cacao butter. Cocoa looks the same but it’s not. Cocoa powder is raw cacao that’s been roasted at high temperatures. Sadly, roasting changes the molecular structure of the cacao bean, lowering the overall nutritional value. However, studies have been done on both cacao and cocoa.
From strengthening your brain to reducing your risk of heart disease, here as six surprising benefits of chocolate.
Research over the years has shown positive benefits of chocolate in preventing heart disease. Seven studies conducted in several nations were analyzed by British researchers who found ate more chocolate significantly reduced their risk for heart disease. Researchers concluded that people who ate the most chocolate weekly had a 37 percent lower risk of any heart disease than those who ate the least amounts of dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate may also improve the function of your brain. One study of healthy volunteers showed that eating high-flavanol cocoa for five days improved blood flow to the brain. Cocoa may also significantly improve cognitive function in elderly people with mental impairment.
Dark chocolate contains very high amounts of a number of potent antioxidants. Free radicals are the prerequisite for cancer and antioxidants can help destroy free radicals before they spread. While evidence is limited, it is growing. Some early studies have shown that people who eat many flavonoids or a lot of antioxidant-rich chocolate develop fewer cancers than those who don’t consume them.
A small amount of dark chocolate can boost oxygen in your body during physical workouts.
The bioactive compounds in dark chocolate may also be great for your skin. The flavonols can protect against sun damage, improve blood flow to the skin and increase skin density and hydration.
It Lowers Blood Pressure
A German study of the diets of more than 19,000 people found that eating chocolate may help lower blood pressure, and in turn, cardiovascular disease risk. A widespread analysis of numerous studies on the topic conducted by Australian researchers also found limited but noticeable blood pressure benefits from eating the superfood. Again, very few studies pinpoint the exact amount of dark chocolate or flavonoids needed to get this effect, and more scientific study is needed.
Dark chocolate is acknowledged as a cholesterol-lowering superfood. Cocoa butter in chocolate contains oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated fat, the same fat you find in heart-healthy olive oil. Scientists believe that this monounsaturated fat can actually raise your HDL, or good cholesterol.