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Is chocolate your guilty pleasure? Well, it turns out that this sweet treat may not be as bad as you think. A study in the Netherlands Journal of Medicine found that the main ingredient, cocoa, contains biologically active compounds that might actually be good for your health. Other studies have found that quality dark chocolate is rich in fibre, iron and magnesium and eating it in moderation can actually improve overall health and lower your risk of heart disease. Chocolate lovers, rejoice!
Variations of chocolate have been enjoyed throughout the centuries with the Olmec civilization in Mesoamerica being the first to hail its unique loveliness. After the European discovery of America, its demand exploded thanks to its sweet, rich taste. It’s had a bad rap in recent years with links to weight-gain and high sugar content, but organic dark chocolate with high cocoa content (over 70%), eaten in moderation has some surprising health benefits.
Chocolate is made from the seed of the cocoa tree and is loaded with biologically active organic compounds. In fact, one study found that cocoa and dark chocolate contained more antioxidant activity and flavanols than blueberries and Acai berries. These little beauties are known to improve blood flow in our arteries which can help prevent some risk factors for heart disease.
Studies have found that chocolate consumption might help reduce bad cholesterol levels. Research published in The Journal of Nutrition found that “Regular consumption of chocolate bars containing plant sterols and cocoa flavanols, as part of a low-fat diet, may support cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol and improving blood pressure.” Pass us a square immediately!
Naturally, we need to be aware of the high sugar content that is often contained in shop-bought chocolate, but quality dark chocolate is also known to reduce insulin resistance which is another common risk factor for many diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
Those superhero flavanols from cocoa work hard to improve the blood flow around our bodies. This can also benefit our skin and even protect it against sun damage.
Scientists at Harvard Medical School have suggested that drinking two cups of organic dark hot cocoa a day can help maintain cognitive function especially among elderly people. Research has shown that the compounds contained in cocoa may improve brain function, especially in elderly people with mental impairments. The report noted: “As different areas of the brain need more energy to complete their tasks, they also need greater blood flow. This relationship, called neurovascular coupling, may play an important role in diseases such as Alzheimer’s.”
In Canada, a study of over 40 thousand people found that those who eat chocolate were 22% less likely to have stroke than those who didn’t. What’s more, those who had a stroke but regularly ate chocolate (cocoa) were 46% less likely to die as a result.
We now know that the extraordinary antioxidants available in cocoa can increase blood flow around the body. Now, the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition recently published findings that show a little dark chocolate might even boost oxygen availability that can help when it comes to exercise and fitness training.
The University of Reading in the UK carried out a study that showed that the consumption of cocoa increases levels of ‘good’ bacteria in the gut. Volunteers drank high-cocoa chocolate milk for four weeks as part of the research. Scientists then found higher levels of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species in their intestines.
Obviously we can’t just go out and start scoffing any old chocolate bar in the name of our health, but it is encouraging to know that a square or two of good quality, organic dark chocolate, with a high cocoa content (that is unsweetened) can actually benefit our health. Join the videoDoc team when choosing your next chocolate treat and opt for the good stuff instead.