15 Reasons You Should Eat More Chocolate
Thanks to Valentine's Day, I definitely find myself snacking on more chocolate than usual (thanks, sweetie!). Do you? It's OK to indulge from time to time. I've discovered that if I choose my desserts wisely, I can take advantage of a variety of little-known benefits that chocolate, particularly dark varieties, provides. (See also: 14 Valentine’s Day Desserts)
Here are 15 reasons to eat chocolate for your health!
1. Chocolate Protects the Heart
Researchers became particularly interested in a group of individuals living on the San Blas islands of Panama because they had remarkably low incidence of high blood pressure and heart disease. Through experimentation, the scientists discovered their cocoa consumption — increasing their intake of polyphenols — was to thank.
2. Chocolate Nurtures Pregnancy
Furthermore, snacking on chocolate could help pregnant women avoid preeclampsia by as much as 69%. The "density of theobromine" (a chemical which lowers hypertension) is at play here, which is more concentrated in dark chocolates than in milk chocolates. (See also: 5 Best Parenting Books)
3. Chocolate Reduces Inflammation
Chocolates that are at least 70% or higher cacao contain anti-inflammatory power from chemicals like resveratrol. Less inflammation means a happier, healthier body and mind. (Pairing your treat with some red wine can help even more!)
4. Chocolate Lowers Cholesterol
The antioxidants in chocolate can help lower "bad" cholesterol say experts at Cleveland Clinic. However, cocoa in more processed and less concentrated forms often contains saturated fats, which could work against this advantage and actually increase cholesterol levels.
5. Chocolate Regulates Blood Sugar
A widespread myth is that eating chocolate leads to diabetes. While too much (of anything) might not be a good thing, chocolate and other anti-inflammatory foods can actually increase resistance to insulin and aid blood sugar regulation. In some cases these benefits can work to prevent type 2 diabetes. (See also: Cheap Ways to Lower Your Blood Sugar)
6. Chocolate Focuses Concentration
Chocolate contains caffeine, which, in moderate amounts, can help with concentration. Experts suggest pairing dark chocolate with nuts rich in vitamin E — another brain-protector for long-term memory loss — to get the maximum benefit. (See also: How to Improve Memory and Get Smarter)
7. Chocolate Fights Depression
The jury is split on this one. Whereas some studies show that chocolate and depression go hand-in-hand, others claim that cocoa has a "chemical similarity to a widely used prescription mood-stabilizing drug." It's a good idea to speak with a professional before self-medicating in any form.
8. Chocolate Wards Off Dementia
Scientists are now thinking that chocolate, particularly hot cocoa, can stimulate the brain by increasing blood flow. In a month-long study, seniors who consumed two mugs of hot cocoa each day did "better on thinking and memory tests than those who didn't."
9. Chocolate Improves Athletic Performance
According to researchers, darker chocolates contain a plant-based compound called epicatechin. This compound "stimulate[s] muscle growth in a similar way to vigorous activity such as jogging." When combined with exercise, chocolate has shown to improve athletic performance by up to 50%.
10. Chocolate Lowers Cortisol
Feeling stressed? Swiss researches have discovered that dark chocolate can lower those stress hormones responsible for making you feel crappy. And you only need a moderate amount to do the trick. The chocolate used in the study contained 75 percent cocoa and participants only snacked on 40 grams (about 4 squares from a large bar) each day. (See also: 20 Free Ways to Relieve Stress)
11. Chocolate Shields Skin
With all those flavonols, chocolate can even help your skin with nasty UV rays. In fact, regularly munching on dark chocolate (the kind richest in antioxidants) provides "significant photoprotection" — though, personally, I wouldn't toss the sunscreen just yet.
12. Chocolate Enhances Libido
Better sex may be in your kitchen cabinet! Dark chocolate "contains a compound called phenylethylamine that releases the same endorphins triggered by sex." Even a 100 calorie serving can help get things going in the bedroom.
13. Chocolate Prevents Cancer
Chocolate also packs a dose of cancer-fighting polyphenols. Researchers studied bowel cancer in mice and found notable differences in the extent of the disease with mice fed a diet rich in cocoa. However, experts recommend sticking to modest portions to avoid excess fat and calories, which can actually increase cancer risks.
14. Chocolate Aids Weight Loss
French nutritionist Jean-Michel Cohen says snacking on small bits of chocolate can help dieters achieve better weight loss results, all while consuming those healthy flavonoids. In order for this method to work, individuals are encouraged to eat small portions of dark chocolate (10 grams at most — only a couple pieces) with a bit of bread. (See also: Foods That Help You Fight Fat)
16. Increases Longevity
With all these benefits at play — lessened inflammation, cancer prevention, weight loss, lowered blood pressure, insulin resistance, and more — chocolate, especially the dark stuff, has been shown to increase life-span overall. So, eat up and live long!
What's your favorite healthy reason to nibble on chocolate?