Look good, feel good


Paradise - - In Paradise Contents -

fes­tive sea­son will soon be on us, pro­vid­ing the per­fect ex­cuse to re­lax and in­dulge in our favourite food. One of those is choco­late, a treat that out­ranks ev­ery other as the world’s most pop­u­lar.

For­tu­nately for fans of the tempt­ing sub­stance, dark choco­late has con­sis­tently come up trumps in nu­tri­tion tests, due to its range of health ben­e­fits from high mag­ne­sium lev­els to the abil­ity to lower blood pres­sure.

The two most re­cent stud­ies, con­ducted in April this year, have found dark choco­late made with a min­i­mum 70 per cent ca­cao re­duces stress and in­flam­ma­tion as well as im­proves mem­ory, im­mu­nity and mood.

The stud­ies, led by Dr Lee S Berk from the Loma Linda Uni­ver­sity in Cal­i­for­nia, found the rea­son was ca­cao’s high lev­els of flavonoids, com­pounds with par­tic­u­larly strong an­tiox­i­dant and anti-in­flam­ma­tory prop­er­ties which, among other func­tions, di­rectly lead to a healthy heart and brain.

While the find­ings may sound sim­i­lar to those dis­cov­ered in pre­vi­ous tests, Dr Berk, who pre­sented his re­search at this year’s an­nual Ex­per­i­men­tal Bi­ol­ogy con­fer­ence, a gath­er­ing of over 14,000 sci­en­tists, in San Diego, said his study dif­fered as it did not look at how choco­late’s sugar con­tent af­fected mood.

“For years we’d look at the sugar con­tent – the more sugar, the hap­pier we are,” said Dr Berk, an as­so­ciate dean of re­search af­fairs with the School of Al­lied Health Pro­fes­sions and also a re­searcher in psy­choneu­roim­munol­ogy and food sci­ence.

“But this is the first time we have looked at the im­pact of large amounts of ca­cao in doses as small as a reg­u­lar-sized choco­late bar in hu­mans over short or long pe­ri­ods of time, and are en­cour­aged by the find­ings.

“Th­ese stud­ies show us that the higher the con­cen­tra­tion of ca­cao, the more pos­i­tive the im­pact on cog­ni­tion, mem­ory, mood, im­mu­nity and other ben­e­fi­cial ef­fects.”

The re­search project also ranks as one of the most cred­i­ble to date, as al­most all pre­vi­ous re­search on choco­late has been funded by choco­late com­pa­nies.

This ve­gan recipe by celebrity clin­i­cal nu­tri­tion­ist Jes­sica Se­pel is a per­fect health­ier al­ter­na­tive to tra­di­tional choco­late treats.

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