Chocolate’s Hidden Health Benefits

chocolateWho doesn’t love chocolate? For most of us, chocolate is one of life’s guilty pleasures. It’s true that chocolate is a calorie-rich food, but keep in mind that it also has a host of health benefits.

Lower risk of thickened arteries

Researchers in the Netherlands recently published an article in the nutritional journal The FASEB Journal that explains how eating chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa (70 to 80%) can help prevent atherosclerosis. This is the hardening and thickening of the arteries, which may be caused by a lack of physical activity, poor diet and other lifestyle-related factors.

The reason cocoa has this effect is because of the flavonols it contains. Flavonols occur naturally in the cacao pod. They decrease cell adhesion, stopping white blood cells from sticking to the blood vessel walls and thickening your arteries. In turn this increases your arterial elasticity and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Lower risk of diabetes and obesity

The idea that eating chocolate might lower the risk of obesity is counterintuitive. However, once you understand the chemical composition of cocoa, it starts to make a lot more sense. The flavonols in cocoa have been shown to lower blood-glucose levels, which helps in weight management by keeping your metabolism in check.

You might think that someone suffering from diabetes should stay away from chocolate. Wrong again! Another recent study has confirmed that eating chocolate (as well as wine and berries) can protect you from type-2 diabetes.

Happier kids

Of course simply feeding chocolate to kids can make them smile! In a newer study, however, women who ate chocolate during pregnancy reported that they were better able to handle stress than those who had not eaten it. In turn, this led to happier, calmer babies. The myth that pregnant women should avoid chocolate altogether has been debunked by several modern studies.

Brain food

Next time work, school or life in general is getting you down or stressing you out, do yourself a favour and grab some dark chocolate. Cocoa rich in flavonols boosts blood flow to key parts of the brain, as well as your extremities, for two to three hours after you eat it, improving your alertness and mental acuity. A study performed at Oxford University showed that out of 2,000 people over the age of 70, those who ate flavonol-rich chocolates scored higher on cognitive tests than those who had not.

So – we think it’s time for less guilt and more chocolate! And with Christmas right around the corner it’s a good time to go all out on Christmas chocolates for family and friends too.