The Health Benefits of Eating Chocolate For centuries, chocolate has been one of the favorite sweet-tasting treat in the world and until not too long ago, also considered unhealthy. Recent studies show that cacao, which chocolate is made, contains potent antioxidants that can actually be beneficial to our health. Cacao is derived from the beans of Theobroma cacao, a tree native to South America (1). Historically cacao was being used by ancient people with various medicinal purposes such as treatment of inflammations, heart palpitation, and prevention of infections.
Cacao is an abundant source of flavonoids, a potential antioxidant, which can be beneficial to one’s health. The benefits greatly depend on the type of chocolate that is consumed and the percentage of cacao bean it has. The higher percentage of cacao, more health is the chocolate. The best chocolate is the darkest, which contains 60 to 70 percentage of cacao and small amount of sugar. Dark chocolate is proven to be good for the heart. A small bar of it every day helps the cardiovascular system run well.
In recent study, it has been demonstrated that the flavonoids present in cacao stimulate the production of nitric oxid (NO) which helps the dilatation of the blood vessels allowing the easy blood flow to the heart and brain reducing the blood pressure(2). When blood pressure is lowered, there is a reduced risk of coronary heart disease. Additionally, the flavanoids affect the cholesterol decreasing the bad cholesterol (LDL) in your blood and increasing significantly the good cholesterol (HDL), which cleans and mops up the blood vessels from the harmful fats.
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Also, dark chocolate improves the body’s ability to use insulin which helps to prevent Type-II diabetes, the type that is caused by the body’s inability to deal with sugar. Cocoa can increase nitric oxide levels to help with insulin-stimulated uptake of blood sugars. The increase in nitric oxide also improves the health of the blood vessels, limiting the damage of diabetes on the small vessels. Like the heart and blood vessels, dark chocolate consumption can be good for the brain.
More recently, it was discovered that a compound in dark chocolate, called epicatechin (a flavonoid), may decrease the risk of stroke by increasing cellular signals that shield nerve cells from damage. A stroke is similar to a heart attack, but occurs when the blood supply to your brain becomes blocked or reduced. This can cause your brain cells to begin to die within minutes because it deprives your brain of necessary oxygen and nutrients.
Furthermore, dark chocolate contains phenyl ethylamine that stimulates the nervous system giving to people a feeling of pleasure, serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant which makes you feel good after eating chocolate and theobromine, caffeine and other substances which are stimulants that can increase your mental awareness. Good for the memory, flavanoids, can help boost brain power and memory. The beneficial brain effects appear to result from flavanoids impact on the blood system. In essence, the chemicals stimulate an increase of blood flow to the brain.
Chocolate may also prevent or slow the oxidative damage to our body. The antioxidant flavonoid helps protect the skin against sun’s harmful UV rays and pollution, soothes inflammation such as acne, and prevents wrinkles by increasing the blood flow, restoring collagen and improving the appearance of the skin. (3) Also, some studies conducted in Europe, Asia, and North America have found that people who eat a diet rich in flavonoids from chocolate have lower incidents of cancer than those who eat fewer flavonoids. Lastly, dark chocolate can help reduce weight gain in the body.
Rich in fiber, dark chocolate can actually help keep you full, so you can resist eating more food than you need. It also can take longer to chew, giving your brain time to get the signal that you have had enough to eat. To Sum up, eating dark chocolate has various health benefits. It contains high concentrations of beneficial flavonoids that may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancer. However it should be consumed in moderation to receive the full potential of these health benefits. References: 1. Dillinger TL, Barriga P, Escarcega S, et al. Food of the gods: cure for humanity?
A cultural history of the medicinal and ritual use of chocolate. J Nutr 2000; 130(suppl):2057S±2072S 2. http://www. aarp. org/health/medical-research/info-03-2011/dark-chocolate-can-help-lower-your-blood-pressure. html 3. http://www. cnn. com/2006/HEALTH/12/20/health. chocolate/ 4. http://img. pathfinder. gr/clubs/files/4093/6835. pdf 5. http://mydrchocolate. soundconcepts. com/research/rs_rwhateat. htm#cardio 6. http://www. dark-chocolate-antioxidant. com/ 7. http://EzineArticles. com/844267 8. http://mydrchocolate. soundconcepts. com/research/rs_rwhateat. htm#other
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