With research and studies identifying the positive effects of chocolate, people everywhere are embracing this favorite comfort confectionary with new passion and less guilt. From the ancient Maya and Aztec civilizations to the Spanish Conquistadores and the courts of Louis XIV, then continuing on to masters such as Daniel Peter and Rodolphe Lindt, chocolate can trace its roots back several centuries and has long been recognized as one of the world’s most powerful foods.
Chocolate lovers know that this tasty treat – like a good friend – can comfort and console, energize body and spirit, help celebrate achievements, and complement a romantic dinner. Throughout the passages of time it has been used to say “I love you”, “I’m sorry”, or “Congratulations!”. Chocolate makes the perfect gift, the ultimate dessert, and the ideal finishing touch to any occasion. Now researchers and scientists are learning what our ancient predecessors had already discovered – chocolate not only tastes good but it also contains many properties that can improve health and well-being.
While all chocolate contains some positive benefits, you will reap the best results by eating it in its purest form – as dark as possible. So unwrap a bar, sit back and relax, and let chocolate work its wonders.
Dark chocolate may lower blood pressure. Chocolate contains a chemical known as epicatechin which has been shown to lower blood pressure and promote healthy blood flow. Studies have also suggested that chocolate may be good for your heart and cardiovascular system since its fat content will not raise cholesterol but could, in fact, help reduce the levels of LDL cholesterol within the blood stream.
Dark Chocolate is a powerful antioxidant. It has been found that chocolate contains significant amounts of various antioxidants that are effective in combating free radical damage within our bodies and preventing disease. In fact, according to the USDA list of top antioxidant foods, cocoa and dark chocolate receive a higher ORCA (a scale determining antioxidant levels in foods) rating than red wine or green tea. Chocolate is also very high in flavanoids, an antioxidant compound found in other powerhouse foods such as strawberries, blueberries, green tea, and carrots.
Chocolate may contribute to healthy teeth. Since chocolate contains phosphate and other valuable minerals, it is very unlikely to cause tooth decay. In fact, some studies suggest that it may actually fight decay since it also contains tannins, a chemical known to be effective in protecting the teeth from cavity causing bacteria.
Dark chocolate may benefit the digestive system. Raw cocoa and darker chocolates contain high levels of flavanoids which may help prevent or treat digestive tract upsets. Historically, unrefined chocolate has been used for many decades in both South America and many European countries to treat diarrhea and other intestinal issues.
Chocolate may help a persistent cough. Chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical that has been found to effectively soothe and moisten the throat, thus relieving dry coughs. Theobromine has also been used, with some success, to treat the symptoms of asthma and other respiratory conditions.
Chocolate may be an effective anti-depressant. Compounds such as tryptophan, phenylethylamine, and theobromine act as stimulants that provide energy and elevate mood. Chocolate also promotes the secretion of endorphins and the neurotransmitter serotonin which act as antidepressants and contribute to feelings of pleasure. In fact, some sources claim that simply inhaling the smell of chocolate can encourage a sense of relaxation.
Chocolate provides valuable vitamins and minerals. Since it contains potassium, magnesium, phosphates and several vitamins such as B, D, and E, chocolate nourishes the body and may help improve overall health and immunity.
While scientific findings vary and all information should be checked with a health care professional, it is clear that the effects of chocolate are significant and, when consumed in moderation, may be a great addition to a healthy lifestyle.