Look good, feel good
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.