You don’t need a scientist to tell you that eating chocolate is a great mood booster; we’re all well-aware of its smile-inducing effects. But as it turns out, this is one treat with perks that are nearly as sweet as its taste. Let’s take a look at the health benefits of this timeless favorite.
Good for the Ticker
If the thought of delicious dark chocolate sets your heart all aflutter, maybe it’s trying to tell you something. Recent studies have shown that chocolate is actually quite effective in warding off certain types of cardiovascular disease.
Cocoa contains molecules called polyphenolic polymers, which microbes in the colon break down into anti-inflammatory compounds. These compounds can help keep inflammation-related cardiovascular diseases at bay.
Evidence has also indicated that dark chocolate causes blood vessels to dilate, decreasing the heart’s workload and improving circulation. The mechanism by which it does this is not fully understood, but scientists believe it could have something to do with chocolate’s wealth of antioxidant flavanols.
Chocolate Keeps You Sharp
In addition to being a boon for cardiovascular health, chocolate has also been show to boost cognitive function in older adults. In a double-blind study, three groups of elderly adults with mild cognitive impairment were each given cocoa beverages with different flavanol content.
After 8 enjoyable weeks of having cocoa every day, they were given information recall and verbal fluency tests, and guess what? The old folks who were given the flavanoid-rich cocoa performed significantly better than their peers. They also had decreased insulin resistance, lower blood pressure, lower blood glucose levels, and lower levels of lipid peroxidation.
Maybe your grandma’s chocolate pudding habit isn’t so bad, after all.
Chocolate Makes You… Skinny?
Don’t go out and stock up on leftover Easter candy just yet, but one study even indicated that those who regularly consume chocolate may have lower body mass indexes, on average. The study didn’t go so far as to establish a cause and effect relationship between eating the sweet stuff and maintaining a svelte and youthful figure, but the link was compelling enough that the researchers involved were eager to pursue their research further.
Don’t Overdo It
The evidence that chocolate, especially the dark variety is beneficial for the human body is pretty persuasive. Of course, we probably don’t need much persuasion to jump on this health craze. Chocolate pretty much sells itself, and any pleasant side effects are just an added bonus.
Health benefits aside, the foods in which one typically encounters chocolate tend to also be full of fat and sugar. Dark chocolates with high cocoa content are the best choice if you want a sweet chocolatey treat. You could also sprinkle cocoa powder on your morning oatmeal, or mix it with yoghurt, protein powder, and a banana for a healthy and delicious post-workout smoothie.
[Photo Credit: organic.healthfoodxdrinks]