Chocolate is Good for the Soul,
and Your Heart,
and Blood Pressure,
and Your Memory,
and Immune System,
and, and, and…
Chocolate: The (not so) New Superfood?
What is the Most Enjoyable Health Food?
Chocolate, of course!
But, is there really any truth to chocolate being healthy, other than sheer delusion?
According to Will Clower, PhD, who wrote the book “Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight”, he says, “Given the fact that healthy cultures eat chocolate all the time…(and) research has yet to show anything but confirmatory evidence about the health effects of high-cocoa chocolate, it seems logical that you should eat chocolate every day, like a delicious vitamin.”
Yes, in my dreams! …cocoa flavanols (plant chemicals protecting against oxidative stress) have a host of benefits, including the potential to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.
…cocoa flavanols (plant chemicals protecting against oxidative stress) have a host of benefits, including the potential to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Obviously, Dr. Clower probably wasn’t referring to the chocolate found in the M&M’s bag, or bought at the convenience store.
In fact, most studies show that the greatest benefits come from dark chocolate with at least a 70% concentration of cocoa.
A study conducted in 2010, described a wide range of health benefits from chocolate and found that moderate chocolate consumption could be part of a healthy diet (due to) selected healthy components found in cocoa.
The research summary suggested that cocoa flavanols (plant chemicals protecting against oxidative stress) have a host of benefits, including the potential to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Some scientists will go so far to claim chocolate as a “superfood!” (Who could possibly argue against that?)
With dark chocolate containing high amounts of polyphenols, the verdict is these are responsible for improving mood, as studies showed that consuming dark chocolate for 30 days, demonstrated a 10 percent reduction in anxiety, less depression, and ten percent increase in calmness.
The Hypertension journal from the American Heart Association, in a study printed in 2012, reports of cognitive improvement in the elderly when consuming cocoa flavanols.
…higher levels of chocolate consumption reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease by 37% and strokes by 29%…
In addition, insulin resistance and blood pressure decreased in the groups receiving the highest percentage of cocoa. Obviously, the higher the cocoa percentage and less sugar, the better the benefits.
With all this good news, in the August 7, 2013 edition of Neurology – Official Journal of the American Academy of Neurology – results were published from a double-blind clinical study of older people and their response to cocoa. The study concluded that 30 days of cocoa consumption increased neurovascular coupling, possibly having a positive effect on neurological disease, such as Alzheimer’s.
In another research study published in the BMJ, the higher levels of chocolate consumption reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease by 37% and strokes by 29%, significantly more than compared to lower levels of chocolate consumption.
Another finding shows that cocoa epicatechin specifically (one flavanol in the cocoa bean) increases heart-healthy nitric oxide in the body.
Cyclists were tested for their heart rates and oxygen consumption levels after two weeks of snacking on 1.5 ounces of chocolate every day. Those consuming the dark chocolate were found to use less oxygen and cycle further in a 2-minute timed race.
The results, researchers concluded, were due to the nitric oxide levels produced by the chocolate, which increased oxygen and energy. This production of nitric oxide is similar to the reaction when consuming beetroot juice – though the chocolate is definitely more fun to eat!
Similar results were discovered when mice were also given cocoa epicatechin which increased their treadmill performance.
(I never knew mice used treadmills, but for a bite of chocolate they too will do anything!)
Though these studies reflect the benefits of eating dark chocolate with higher levels of cocoa, it is important to remember that these results were not based on volume (unfortunately) – but rather the daily consistency of moderate cocoa consumption.
It’s important to remember that moderation is always the key…
For tempting excuses to treat yourself to a cocoa health boost, check out these recipe ideas:
Now where did I hide the chocolate chips?