Health Benefits of Chocolate

Monday, March 3, 2014

My hubby is addicted to chocolate. It’s his one vice, and as far as questionable habits go, this one is agreeably pretty mild. Nonetheless, in an effort to help him feel better about his addiction, I set out to learn whether something so tasty could actually be GOOD for him. Studies prove the answer is a resounding yes!

CACAO

The secret behind chocolate’s health benefits is the cacao bean, which is packed with anti-oxidants, nature’s little defense mechanisms that can help the human body fight free radicals and boost our immune systems. Its polyphenols, in particular, help combat memory loss and gum disease.  The only downside? On its own, the cacao bean has a bitter, somewhat unpleasant flavor.  Nonetheless, it doesn’t take much sweetener to make it tasty, and you can certainly pair it with fruit, for example by adding cacao nibs to a smoothie, or dipping strawberries in melted dark chocolate. Remember the darker the better, as it means less milk and sugar and more of the healthy cacao.

FLAVONOIDS help protect plants from environmental toxins and help repair damage. The can be found in abundance in a variety of fruits and vegetables. When we eat foods rich in flavonoids, it appears that we also benefit from this “antioxidant” power.

ANTIOXIDANTS help the body’s cells resist damage caused by free radicals that are formed by normal bodily processes, such as breathing, and from environmental contaminants, like cigarette smoke and pollution.  If your body doesn’t have enough antioxidants to fight free radicals, it can become damaged. An example is plaque forming on artery walls or your skin looking dull and less beautiful

FLAVANOLS are the main type of flavonoid found in cocoa and chocolate. In addition to containing antioxidants, they can also lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain and heart.  Flavanols can be found in chocolate, cranberries, apples, tea and red wine.

OTHER BENEFITS

INCREASED INTELLIGENCE:

Because flavanols improve blood flow, cacao has also been shown in studies to improve performance and alertness for two to three hours after consuming.  Researchers at Oxford University studied the long term effects of chocolate on the brain. In a group of 2,000 people over the age of 70, they found that those who consumed flavanol-rich chocolate, wine or tea scored significantly higher on cognitive tests than those who didn’t.  So the next time you are feeling sluggish, grab yourself a piece of dark chocolate and leave the Energy drinks behind!

COUGH SUPPRESSANT:

A study at the National Heart and Lung Institute in London found that chocolate quieted coughs as well as codeine, without any of the negative side effects like grogginess and impaired alertness.  The theobromine in cacao, which is responsible for its “feel good” effect, also helps suppress the vagus nerve, and calms a cough.  If the nasty winter cold catches you, drink some hot cocoa before bed rather than a spoonful of cough syrup.

Maybe its not free license to eating snickers bars by the dozens, but you can feel free to enjoy moderate portions of chocolate a few times a week.  Won’t my husband be happy?

Posted By: Lori Kenyon Farley @ Ritual Wellness

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