Is chocolate good for your health?
Flavonoids help protect plants by shielding them from environment toxins and helping repair cell damage. When we consume plant-based foods rich in flavonoids, it appears that we also benefit from this “antioxidant” power. Antioxidants are believed to help the body’s cells resist damage caused by free radicals that are formed by normal bodily processes such as breathing and from environmental contaminants like cigarette smoke. Flavanols are the main type of flavonoid found in cocoa and chocolate. In addition to having antioxidant qualities, research indicates that flavanols have other positive influences too.
Is chocolate a Health Food?
• Cacao, the source of chocolates, contains antibacterial agents that fight tooth decay. Of course this is counteracted by the high sugar content of milk chocolate.
• The smell of chocolate may increase theta brain waves, resulting in relaxation.
• Chocolate contains phenyl ethylamine, a mild mood elevator.
• The cocoa butter in chocolate contains oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat which may raise good cholesterol.
• Drinking a cup of hot chocolate before meals may actually diminish appetite.
• Men who eat chocolate live a year longer than those who don’t.
• The flavonoids in chocolate may help keep blood vessels elastic.
• Chocolate increases antioxidant levels in the blood.
• Mexican healers use chocolate to treat bronchitis and insect bites.
• The carbohydrates in chocolate raise serotonin levels in the brain, resulting in a sense of well-being.
Choosing your chocolate:
A beautifully wrapped box of chocolates has always been considered a very romantic gift. But the surprising news is that this reputedly decadent treat actually has some health benefits, especially if you choose you’re chocolate wisely. When it comes to chocolate, it is darker the better. Here’s why:
• Scientific research has found that dark chocolate is higher in flavonoids than milk chocolate because the way cocoa powder and chocolate syrups are processed removes most flavonoids. Moreover milk chocolate or white chocolate contains large amounts of sugar, which is harmful.
• The cocoa flavones found in dark chocolate could be useful in enhancing brain function for people fighting fatigue, sleep deprivation, and even the effects of ageing. It may also have a protective effect against stroke.
• Dark chocolate can affect the brain by causing the release of certain neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the molecules that transmit signals between neurons. Happy neurotransmitters such as endorphins and other opiates can help in reducing stress and lead to feelings of euphoria.
• The cocoa flavonoids are able to influence the function of retinal neurons. In other words, the plant compounds in cocoa can increase blood flow to the eye.
• Eating a small amount of dark chocolate two or three times each week can help lower your blood pressure.
• Dark chocolate improves blood flow and may help prevent the formation of blood clots. Eating dark chocolate may also prevent arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
Cardio metabolic benefits of dark chocolate:
- Improves blood pressure
- Improves insulin sensitivity
- Increases HDL (good) cholesterol
- Reduces oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol
- Increases total antioxidant capacity
- Reduces coagulation of the blood.