Benefits of Chocolate
As Easter is fast approaching, the shops are filled with Easter eggs and chocolate varieties. With plentiful Easter chocolate egg options, it’s hard to turn down such tasty comfort food, especially, during April showers. Many will feel very guilty after the weekend for indulging in the variations of chocolate, but fear no more, as chocolate can actually offer some great benefits to your health!
It will be wise to explain what chocolate actually consists of. The two main ingredients in chocolate are cocoa liquor – made from roasted cocoa beans and cocoa butter, a natural fat from the cocoa bean. It will also contain sugar, vanilla, lecithin and occasionally milk.
There are many varieties of chocolate, the healthiest being dark chocolate (high amount of cocoa). This is because the ingredient that deems chocolate “beneficial” is the cocoa. The higher the cocoa percentage, the healthier it will be.
So what are the benefits? Hang tight.
Chocolate is great for your cardiovascular system. Dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels. Both arterial stiffness and white blood cell adhesion are known factors that play a significant role in atherosclerosis. It helps reduce cholesterol levels by increasing HDL levels and decreasing LDL levels (for more information on blood cholesterol, please refer to our blog “Cholesterol“ published in February 2018). Consequently, chocolate consumption can lower the risk of suffering a stroke.
It may sound too good to be true, but chocolate is good for your skin. It contains flavanols (in dark chocolate) that can protect your skin against harsh sun damage. Sun damage is known to cause premature aging and skin pigmentations and is also linked to skin cancer. You must still wear sun screen (for more information, please refer to our blog on “Sunscreen Benefits” published in June 2017).
PEA, phenylethylamine is a chemical that is created by the brain when you are failing in love. You must be wondering what this has to do with our topic, but you may or may not be surprised to hear that chocolate also contains PEA. Therefore, upon consumption, chocolate triggers the release of feel good endorphins. This may also explain why some countries label chocolate as an aphrodisiac. So if you’re feeling a little blue, indulge in some good quality dark chocolate or a hot cocoa!
It can promote weight loss and possible delay the onset of diabetes
Researchers have found that flavonoids found in dark chocolate can reduce insulin resistance while containing healthy fats, which slow the absorption of sugar into the blood stream. That helps prevent the dreaded insulin spike, which is famed for shuttling sugar straight into your fat cells. Insulin spikes turn off your body's fat-burning mechanisms and make you hungry again several hours later. Over time, they can also lead to insulin resistance and diabetes. So dark chocolate - in moderation - might delay or prevent the onset of diabetes. Meanwhile, Swiss scientists have found that dark chocolate reduces the metabolic effects of stress, and University of Copenhagen researchers have shown that dark chocolate curbs cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods alike. Consequently, promoting weight loss.
Although it is very easy to get carried away and bury your head in piles of chocolate, you must note that “chocolate” mentioned in this blog refers to dark chocolate i.e. at least 70% cocoa. Milk and white chocolate contains a lot of sugar and fat and is not as beneficial as dark chocolate. It is also very important that chocolate is eaten in moderation.