Health ben­e­fits of choco­late

Lesotho Times - - Feature -

VERY few of us need a com­pelling rea­son to make our­selves eat choco­late. The taste and the mo­men­tary mood lift are enough to make it a treat that doesn’t need a hard sell (but it’s not the only mood-booster.

But if you aren’t eat­ing it con­sis­tently, you could be miss­ing out on some of the most amaz­ing health ben­e­fits of dark choco­late you never knew about, writes Will Clower, PHD, author of the new book Eat Choco­late, Lose Weight. “Given the fact that healthy cul­tures eat choco­late all the time and re­search has yet to show any­thing but con­fir­ma­tory ev­i­dence about the health ef­fects of high-co­coa choco­late,” he says, “it seems log­i­cal that you should eat choco­late ev­ery day, like a de­li­cious vi­ta­min.”

Of course, you have to eat the right choco­late — the candy bars in the gro­cery store check­out lane aren’t go­ing to cut it. You’ll reap the great­est health ben­e­fits of dark choco­late with prod­ucts that have 70 per­cent, or higher, co­coa lev­els.

So what are those great ben­e­fits? Aside from choco­late’s rep­u­ta­tion as an aphro­disiac and a mo­men­tary mood-booster, here are seven le­git­i­mate rea­sons you should be eat­ing it ev­ery day.

Health­ier skin Eat­ing an­tiox­i­dant-rich choco­late leads to skin that’s smoother, less dried out, and more re­sis­tant to sun­burn, stud­ies have shown. One, in the Euro­pean Jour­nal of Nu­tri­tion, found that con­sis­tently eat­ing co­coa for 12 weeks re­duced mois­ture loss in skin by 25 per­cent — the best news ever for dryskin suf­fer­ers. An­other ben­e­fit? Fewer sun­burns. Bri­tish re­searchers gave two groups of women ei­ther dark or milk choco­late for 12 weeks, and at the end of the study, those in the dark choco­late group had dou­bled their pro­tec­tion against UV rays, while the other group saw no ben­e­fit. Ba­si­cally, it took UV rays that were twice as strong to cause burns in the dark choco­late group by the study’s end. Co­coa boosts blood cir­cu­la­tion to the fine cap­il­lar­ies in the top layer of skin, ves­sels that are bet­ter equipped to draw oxy­gen and nu­tri­ents that pro­tect skin against de­hy­dra­tion and burns.

Health­ier teeth It’s the sugar in choco­late can­dies that rots your teeth — co­coa ac­tu­ally pro­tects them. Co­coa bean husks con­tain an­tibac­te­rial com­pounds that in­hibit the for­ma­tion of plaque and biofilms where cav­ity-caus­ing bac­te­ria can thrive. In fact, in a study of In­dian chil­dren who hadn’t brushed in four days, a sin­gle rinse with a co­coa-based mouth­wash re­duced plaque by nearly 50 per­cent and killed 21 per­cent of bac­te­ria. Re­duced crav­ings +

weight gain Co­coa is rich in fi­bre and pro­tein; a stan­dard-size dark choco­late bar con­tains 4 grams and 8 to 9 grams, re­spec­tively, of each, and a ta­ble­spoon of co­coa pow­der con­tains 4 grams and 1 gram of each. But here’s an­other in­ter­est­ing fact about choco­late: Re­searchers from the Nether­lands found that peo­ple who sim­ply smelled 85-per­cent dark choco­late re­ported that their ap­petite lev­els dropped by up to half. Smelling dark choco­late, they found, stim­u­lates pro­duc­tion of an an­ti­hunger hor­mone called ghre­lin, and the ef­fect lingers for about an hour.

A health­ier heart Choco­late is of­ten vil­i­fied be­cause it con­tains co­coa but­ter, which is high in sat­u­rated fat. But it turns out that like other forms of sat­u­rated fat, such as co­conut oil, co­coa but­ter could ac­tu­ally be good for you. One-third of the fat in co­coa but­ter is stearic acid, which your liver con­verts to a healthy mo­noun­satu- rated fat called oleic acid. Oleic acid ac­tu­ally low­ers lev­els of bad (LDL) choles­terol and boosts lev­els of good (HDL). Also, the mul­ti­ple anti-in­flam­ma­tory com­pounds in co­coa help fight chronic vas­cu­lar in­flam­ma­tion, im­prove flex­i­bil­ity in blood ves­sels thereby re­duc­ing your blood pres­sure, and keep platelets from stick­ing to­gether and clog­ging up your artery walls — all things that can con­trib­ute to heart dis­ease.

Sharper fo­cus Mag­netic res­o­nance imag­ing stud­ies have shown that choco­late boosts blood cir­cu­la­tion to the brain, which can im­prove your abil­ity to fo­cus. Tak­ing a small amount of co­coa fla­vanols for five days led to bet­ter blood flow to the brain in healthy adults who were per­form­ing cog­ni­tive tasks.

Less anx­i­ety Stress prompts your body to pro­duce cor­ti­sol, which has an added down­side of trig­ger­ing the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of the ab­dom­i­nal, or vis­ceral, fat that builds up around your or­gans and can con­trib­ute to de­pres­sion, along with heart dis­ease and stroke. Yet a 2009 study found that peo­ple who ate 40 grams (about an ounce) of choco­late ev­ery day for two weeks saw de­creases in lev­els of cor­ti­sol in their sys­tems com­pared to its lev­els at the start of the study. An­other study a year later showed that, over the course of 30 days, peo­ple who ate co­coa daily had 10 per­cent lower lev­els of anx­i­ety and con­sid­ered them­selves 10 per­cent calmer than they had been at the start of the study. — Ya­hoo Health

Pure, unadul­ter­ated dark choco­late just might save your life.

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