If you can’t go one day without gorging on some chocolate – you might be surprised to learn that it could be doing wonders for your health.
Now, let’s get one thing straight, we’re not talking milk and white, but plain (unflavoured) dark chocolate – the higher the cocoa percentage, the better.
As it turns out, dark chocolate is not only a great pick-me-up but it also has a number of health benefits.
Here are all the ways that your dark chocolate habit could be helping your mental and physical health.
It could reduce your risk of depression
Most people are aware that munching on chocolate has glorious mood-boosting powers, but scientists have focused the extent of its feel-good properties – and they’re quite astonishing.
A study, consisting of around 13,000 adults, found that eating dark chocolate can reduce the risk of depression by up 70%.
Key compounds in dark chocolate – such as flavonoids and phenylethylamine (PEA) – have a similar mood-boosting effect to cannabis.
Its feel-good properties have prompted thoughts around it being used as a potential alternative to antidepressants – depending on the patient of course.
Can improve blood flow and blood pressure
The flavonoids in dark chocolate help support the production of nitric oxide in the inner cell lining of blood vessels – this helps to relax blood vessels and improve blood flow, which in turn, lowers blood pressure.
It’s great for your skin
The flavonoids in dark chocolate can also help protect against sun damage.
Just make sure you don’t ditch the suncream – you’ll still need plenty of that. Chocolate on its own isn’t enough to protect fully against the sun.
Dark chocolate also prevents the breakdown of collagen – the protein which keeps skin plump and youthful. So in other words, if you can’t afford high-end anti aging serums, just make sure your cupboards are stocked full of the brown stuff.
It makes you feel good
Not only does chocolate taste good but it makes you feel good too, and there’s actual science behind it.
When dark chocolate is consumed, the brain releases endorphins – chemicals in the brain that create feelings of pleasure. In fact, chocolate contains PEA, which is the same chemical that your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. Aw.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that fruit, vegetables and fish are the only foods rich in antioxidants. Dark chocolate is too, and it also contains minerals such as magnesium, potassium, zinc, selenium and iron.
Antioxidants are important as they help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, which can play a role in heart disease and cancer. The more antioxidants you consume the better.
Reduce levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol
Research has shown that cocoa can reduce levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol (also known as LDL). But not only that, it also raises levels of ‘good’ cholesterol, which can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
It can help you lose weight
Contrary to popular belief, a small portion of chocolate can actually help you shed the pounds.
A square or two of dark chocolate can leave you feeling fuller for longer, and less likely to snack before your next meal.
Consuming a small amount of dark chocolate, will also help curb sweet tooth cravings – helpful for those trying to lose weight.
It also contains healthy fats, which slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, consequently preventing an insulin spike (which directs sugar straight into your fat cells).
Good for your brain
The benefits don’t stop there – dark chocolate can be good for your brain too.
Cocoa has been seen to improve cognitive function in elderly people and its anti-inflammatory qualities have proven beneficial in treating those with brain injuries like concussion.
One study also found that eating dark chocolate led to an increase in gamma frequency in the cerebral cortical regions of the brain – the areas involved in memory and sensory processing. Results point to dark chocolate having significant brain health benefits.
Could reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
Snacking on a small amount of dark chocolate every day may improve insulin sensitivity and, as a result, help to control blood sugar. So eating it (in moderation) may delay and even prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.
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