Health Benefits of Chocolate?

darkchocolate The next time you eat a piece of chocolate, do not feel so guilty.  As you may know there are a number of health benefits that come with indulging in this delicious treat.  Chocolate is made from plants, which means it contains many of the health benefits of dark vegetables. After the discovery of the Americas, chocolate became very popular in Europe, and its demand exploded.  Chocolate is made from tropical Theobroma Cacao tree seeds. The earliest use of chocolate dates back to the Olmec civilization in Mesoamerica.  The secret behind its powerful punch is cacao, also the source of the sweet’s distinct taste. Study after study proves that dark chocolate—sweet, rich, and delicious—is good for more than curing a broken heart.  But what effects does eating chocolate have on our health?  Below are some of the benefits of chocolate, if taken diligently, can be used to as a medicine rather than a guilty indulgence. PAD (Peripheral Artery Disease) A  condition producing severe pain when walking any distance, for any length of time.  This Study closely looked at patients who consumed 40 grams of 85% chocolate and it was found that only after 2 hours patients were able to significantly increase both their distance and walking speed!  Why would this work?  The principle cause of PAD is actually restricted blood flow in the peripheral arteries, and high cocoa chocolate can measurably improve blood flow.  Also, another reason for chocolate’s pain reducing properties is that – like the drugs naproxen, ibuprofen, and aspirin – the cocoa in chocolate is strongly anti-inflammatory with a lot less side effects like stomach ulcers and gastric erosions. Brain Power Next time you’re under pressure on a work project, don’t feel so guilty about grabbing a dark chocolate bar from the vending machine. Not only will it help your body ward off the effects of stress, but it’ll boost your brain power when you really need it. Other researchers from Oxford University and Norway looked at chocolate’s long-term effects on the brain by studying the diets of more than 2,000 people over age 70. They found that those who consumed flavanol-rich chocolate, wine, or tea scored significantly higher on cognitive tests than those who didn’t. Diarrhea Relief Both South American and European cultures have a history that dates back to the 16th century of treating diarrhea with cocoa. Modern-day science has shown they were onto something.  Scientists at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute found that cocoa flavonoids bind to a protein that regulates fluid secretion in the small intestine, potentially stopping the trots in their tracks. Helps PMS Craving certain foods, such as chocolate, at that time of the month is for a reason, chocolate releases calming endorphins that reduce anxiety. Plus, it’s high in magnesium  which lifts moods and reduces water retention. But overindulging in sugar, salt and caffeine can backfire, causing bloating and fluid retention (not to mention weight gain). Try one of these recipes to get your chocolate fix the healthy way:

  • Banana Bread with Chocolate and Crystallized Ginger
  • Chocolate Raspberry Brownie Bites
  • Spicy Chocolate Energy Bars

Improve Your Skin London researchers recently tested chocolate flavanols’ sun-protecting prowess. After 12 weeks eating chocolate with high levels of flavanols, their study subjects’ skin took twice as long to develop that reddening effect that indicates the beginning of a burn.  The compounds in chocolate act as UV filters,  after 12 weeks, the chocolate eaters’ skin was 16 percent denser and 42 percent less scaly. So the next time you indulge in the world’s most popular treat,  do it wisely and enjoy the benefits!


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