The good news about choco­late the easter es­sen­tial that’s ben­e­fi­cial to our hearts, health and hap­pi­ness

Hur­rah! our favourite snack – and easter es­sen­tial – is ben­e­fi­cial for our hearts, health and hap­pi­ness, and here’s why. by michele o’Con­nor

Woman & Home - - Contents -

Awhop­ping 80 mil­lion Easter eggs are sold in the UK an­nu­ally – ac­count­ing for 10% of our choco­late spend­ing for the whole year. And sales of qual­ity, dark choco­late is climb­ing. Dark choco­late (70% or higher co­coa) boasts some of the high­est lev­els of an­tiox­i­dants found in any food – even higher than blue­ber­ries, cran­ber­ries and acai berries.

Eat­ing choco­late=hap­pi­ness

“eat­ing choco­late is known to in­crease brain lev­els of sev­eral chem­i­cals,” ex­plains Dr Jeff Fos­ter, a pri­vate gP at spire Park­way

Hospi­tal in soli­hull. “these in­clude mood-al­ter­ing Pea (phenylethy­lamine, re­lated to am­phet­a­mine), which pro­duces a mild el­e­va­tion in mood and con­fi­dence; tryp­to­phan – a pro­tein that is sub­se­quently con­verted to sero­tonin (the so-called ‘happy hor­mone’), which pro­vides a feel­ing of con­tent­ment and in­creased eu­pho­ria; and theo­bromine – a stim­u­lant that pro­vides en­ergy.” How­ever, as these hor­mone changes are lim­ited – it doesn’t mean that the more you eat, the hap­pier you will feel!

It’s ben­e­fi­cial to your heart

“Re­cent large-scale stud­ies have shown that eat­ing dark choco­late may help to re­duce blood pres­sure and

“Eat­ing dark choco­late can give your brain a short-term boost”

‘bad choles­terol’ in our blood­stream,” says Dr Fos­ter. a nine-year swedish study of nearly 32,000 mid­dle-aged and el­derly women who ate dark choco­late once or twice a week found that they had a 32% lower risk of de­vel­op­ing heart fail­ure. it’s thought the min­er­als potas­sium and mag­ne­sium in dark choco­late can help to im­prove blood flow to your heart.

You might even lose a few pounds

some stud­ies have sug­gested that in­clud­ing dark choco­late in your diet may help you to lose weight – par­tic­u­larly around the mid­dle, says lisa Hut­son, a nu­tri­tional ther­a­pist at spire Hull Hospi­tal. it’s far more fill­ing than its milk coun­ter­part – re­duc­ing crav­ings for sweet, salty and fatty foods. “in fact, just smelling dark choco­late re­duces the ap­petite re­sponse, lead­ing to in­creased feel­ings of full­ness,” she ex­plains. “it ap­pears the flavonoid con­tent of dark choco­late re­duces li­po­ge­n­e­sis (the cre­ation of new fat cells) and en­cour­ages the body to in­crease lev­els of the pro­tein mes­sen­ger adiponectin – which is linked to re­duced in­sulin re­sis­tance.”

You’ll re­mem­ber more

eat­ing dark choco­late can give your brain a short-term boost, in­creas­ing your alert­ness for two to three hours, ac­cord­ing to a study at the univer­sity of Not­ting­ham. “Re­search sug­gests that the high quan­ti­ties of an­tiox­i­dants in choco­late could play a role in coun­ter­act­ing cog­ni­tive de­cline and the im­prove­ment in mem­ory,” says lisa. Northum­bria univer­sity re­searchers also dis­cov­ered that peo­ple given large amounts of fla­vanols found men­tal arith­metic much eas­ier. ap­par­ently, the brain re­leases the chem­i­cal dopamine af­ter just a cou­ple of squares of dark choco­late. this helps with over­all men­tal func­tion, and im­proves your abil­ity to re­mem­ber and re­call peo­ple and events.

It could soothe your cough

the high con­tent of theo­bromine in dark choco­late has been found to be a third more ef­fec­tive at stop­ping per­sis­tent coughs than codeine, ac­cord­ing to a study at lon­don’s im­pe­rial Col­lege. theo­bromine works by sup­press­ing the ac­tiv­ity of the va­gus nerve, which causes cough­ing and, un­like some cough med­i­ca­tion, it doesn’t have any ad­verse ef­fects on the car­dio­vas­cu­lar or cen­tral ner­vous sys­tems. but, warns lon­don nu­tri­tion­ist lily sout­ter (lilysout­ter­nu­tri­tion.com), “While this is ex­cit­ing news, more re­search needs to be con­ducted be­fore con­firm­ing that our choco­late fix could, in fact, be our next cough medicine!”

It can im­prove your eye­sight

We all know that car­rots can help your eye­sight but, ac­cord­ing to re­search pub­lished in the us jour­nal Phys­i­ol­ogy & Be­hav­ior, dark choco­late can of­fer ben­e­fits too. the re­searchers found that par­tic­i­pants who con­sumed dark choco­late with 720mg of co­coa fla­vanols ex­pe­ri­enced en­hanced vis­ual per­for­mance – like de­tect­ing mo­tion and read­ing low-con­trast let­ters – likely to be due to the in­creased blood flow to the retina and brain.

You’ll have more en­ergy

“ac­cord­ing to the World Health or­ga­ni­za­tion, a large ma­jor­ity of the world’s pop­u­la­tion does not reach the rec­om­mended daily in­take of mag­ne­sium,” says san­dra green­bank, reg­is­tered nu­tri­tional ther­a­pist (san­dra­green­bank.com). “mag­ne­sium is needed for hun­dreds of bio­chem­i­cal re­ac­tions in our body, and is in­volved in cel­lu­lar en­ergy pro­duc­tion, which is why lethargy is a com­mon sign of a de­fi­ciency of this im­por­tant min­eral. i’ve used it with clients ex­pe­ri­enc­ing fa­tigue, Pms and stress with great re­sults. in fact, a choco­late crav­ing at cer­tain times of the month could sim­ply be due to a higher need for mag­ne­sium dur­ing that part of the men­strual cy­cle.” Dark choco­late con­tains 146mg of mag­ne­sium per 100g, while milk choco­late con­tains only 63mg per 100g. w&h

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