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
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 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