If you’re a chocolate lover, it may feel like you have to sacrifice a healthy body for your favorite treat. While this is true for sugary varieties like the milk chocolate found in most candy bars, at PurMEDICA we know that dark chocolate is actually a great proponent for good health. Stick to chocolate that contains at least 60-70% cocoa and avoid excess sugar to reap the full benefits of this sweet treat. Dark chocolate can help you eat your way to great health in many ways. Here are seven of our favorites.
Dark chocolate has proven to support great cardiovascular health. In a nine year study with 31,000 women, Swedish scientists found that women who ate dark chocolate at least twice a week were 33% less likely to experience heart failure as those who didn’t. Additionally, another study shows that eating a square of the dark stuff per day lowers blood pressure and reduces risk of heart attack by as much as 39%. This is due to the high flavonoid content in dark chocolate, which is a powerful antioxidant compound that encourages artery and vein flexibility as well as fights harmful free radicals.
Chocolate and weight loss don’t exactly go hand in hand, but dark chocolate has been shown to fight cravings. Besides the simple satisfaction of indulging in chocolate, small amounts of the dark variety are also great at providing a nice, full feeling. Dark chocolate lowers cravings for fatty, sweet, and salty foods. If you feel a craving coming on, reach for the nearest bar of dark chocolate and enjoy in moderation.
While most people would probably agree that they feel happy while eating chocolate, they likely don’t know that that happiness has to do with much more than delicious taste. Dark chocolate has been shown to have stress-relieving properties that act as mood enhancers. In one study, pregnant women who ate dark chocolate daily throughout their pregnancies said they were better able to deal with stress than pregnant women who did not eat chocolate. Another study also found that babies of mothers who ate chocolate during their pregnancies were happier and smiled more than babies of mothers who refrained.
Here’s another link that probably sounds counterintuitive: dark chocolate can fight diabetes. Flavonoids get the credit, as they increase nitric oxide production. Higher nitric oxide production helps prevent against insulin resistance. In a small study, the group of participants who ate dark chocolate daily for just over two weeks noticed that their potential for insulin resistance decreased by about 50%.
While we’re not suggesting you slather on a big batch of liquid dark chocolate before you head to the beach, although you’d certainly get a lot of attention, the sweet treat has been shown to lessen sun sensitivity. Flavonoids are at work again, armed with the ability to delay the reddening that indicates the start of sunburn. Participants in a research group who ate dark chocolate reported that it took twice as long to show signs of sunburn compared to those who didn’t eat chocolate.
Boost Brain Performance
Would you make the switch from milk chocolate to dark chocolate if you knew it could make you smarter? Time to ditch the light stuff; dark chocolate is linked to high intelligence levels. Flavanols found in dark chocolate have shown to boost blood flow to the brain over the course of two or three hours. This in turn means better brain performance and alertness. Over the long term, researchers found that people over 70 who ate dark chocolate and other flavonoid-rich foods scored significantly higher on cognitive tests than their counterparts who didn’t. If you’ve got a big test or meeting coming up, eat some dark chocolate two to three hours beforehand to be on your best game.
Soothe a Cough
Dark chocolate really is the best medicine! Studies with dark chocolate and codeine showed that the sweet stuff was just as effective at soothing a cough as the pharmaceutical medicine. This is thanks in part to the theobromine content found in dark chocolate, which helps to suppress activity in the brain’s vagus nerve that is responsible for coughing. As a bonus effect, if you treat a cough with chocolate instead of codeine, you won’t get any of the sleepy side effects and you get to enjoy a delicious sweet while you’re at it!