Is there such a thing as a guilt-free pleasure when it comes to food? Absolutely, and chocolate is one of them. This delectable, seemingly addictive food is produced from the beans of the cacao tree, whose official name is Theobroma cacao. Its scientific name reflects our long-standing love of chocolate that’s endured for millennia (theobroma is the Greek word for “food of the gods”).
Here are a few scientifically proven health benefits of consuming moderate amounts of heavenly, high-quality chocolate.
1. It improves your mood.
Chocolate has long been associated with love, and now scientists have discovered a possible chemical connection. Chocolate contains a compound known as phenylethylamine (PEA), a brain chemical that’s released during moments of emotional euphoria. In addition to PEA, controversial findings suggest that chocolate contains pharmacologically active substances with the same effect on the brain as marijuana. The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, isn’t found in chocolate, but another neurotransmitter called anandamide is. Like THC, anandamide is naturally produced in the brain and binds to the same receptors as THC, which may help explain why, while eating chocolate will not make you high, it’s likely to engender some pleasant feelings or at least make you feel more relaxed and less anxious.
2. It’s good for your heart.
One of the key areas of research into the benefits of chocolate consumption is its effect on cardiovascular disease. A growing amount of recent research suggests that:
- Chocolate is a rich source of flavonoid antioxidants that are especially important in protecting against damage to the lining of the arteries.
- Chocolate flavonoids prevent the excessive clumping together of blood platelets that can cause blood clots.
- Unlike the saturated fats found in meat and dairy products, the saturated fats found in chocolate do not elevate cholesterol levels.
- Frequent chocolate consumption is associated with a nearly 40% reduced risk for heart disease and a 30% reduced risk for a stroke.
- Chocolate can provide significant amounts of arginine, an amino acid that’s required in the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps regulate blood flow, inflammation and blood pressure.
3. It’s associated with weight loss.
A recent study showed that frequent chocolate consumption was associated with lower body mass index (BMI) — a ratio of height and weight that’s used to measure obesity. The authors used data from 972 patients who answered the question, “How many times a week do you consume chocolate?” Their data indicated that chocolate consumption frequency was associated with lower BMI, even after adjusting for total calorie intake, exercise activity, and saturated fat intake.
These results are extremely promising. The researchers believe the benefits are once again related to the antioxidant flavonoids in chocolate. They do caution that the benefits of chocolate are only apparent with moderate consumption, and that consuming large quantities of chocolate would obviously be counterproductive to losing weight.
4. Chocolate helps in preventing cancer:
Yes, it’s as true as it seems. Chocolate certainly helps in preventing cancer. Cocoa, which is the major ingredient in the production of chocolate contains a compound that is known as pentameric procyanidin or pentamer, which prevents the cancer, cells to spread through the entire body. This study was concluded by the researchers from Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University back in 2005. They treated cancer cells with pentamer and found out that the protein that was required for the cancer growth was suppressed by this compound and hence, the cells stopped dividing and spreading throughout.
5. Chocolate improves the skin:
Dark chocolates are considered to be extremely good for your skin. It contains Flavonoids that protect the skin of women from UV sun rays but the impact of such compound is limited and therefore, women cannot wholly depend on a dark chocolate in order to get protection from the UV rays. There is simply no replacement for the sunscreens available in the market. However, a dark chocolate significantly helps to improve the skin quality of the person.
In the right form, chocolate is a true super food. Of all the foods available on planet Earth, chocolate is perhaps the most magical and maybe one of the best health foods around. Fortunately, it’s also one of the most delicious, so enjoy it in good health.