For centuries, we’ve enjoyed chocolate for its aphrodisiac and plain delicious qualities, but recently, scientists have discovered it’s actually more than just a tasty treat — it can be good for us, too. Aside from merely making us forget our every-day troubles, what else can dark chocolate, rich in a phytochemical called flavonoids, cure? Here are 7 reasons chocolate is good for you.
1. It Can Improve Your Mood
We women didn’t need a study to tell us this. We’ve known for generations that chocolate can make us feel better, mentally. Dark chocolate is loaded with mood-boosting phenylethylamine and serotonin, and the flavor and sensation of chocolate melting in your mouth can enhance your mood on their own, too.
2. It Can Reduce Stress
As well as serving as a pick-me-up, chocolate can also help you handle stress. Scientists have shown that eating a small amount of dark chocolate over just two weeks can reduce a person’s cortisol and catecholamine hormones, which increase feelings of stress. Research aside, I know this for a fact: there’s no weird boss, loud client, or traffic jam that can’t be made more manageable by indulging in a tiny piece of rich dark chocolate.
3. It’s Good for Your Heart
A 2008 Italian and a 2007 Japanese study have both demonstrated that eating a small amount of dark chocolate daily can help reduce the inflammation that often leads to heart disease. And how much exactly is a “small amount”? Researchers say that to get the cardiac benefits, a person needs to eat only 7 grams of dark chocolate. That’s the equivalent of just a couple of small bites from a bar of dark chocolate.
4. It Can Help Stabilize Blood Pressure
According to a German study, eating a small bit of dark chocolate every day can help reduce both your systolic and diastolic blood pressure by a couple of points each. A small bit is literally only one or two small bites of dark chocolate, about the size of one Hershey’s Kiss, and eating more won’t lower your blood pressure more, so don’t overindulge, or you can gain weight… which will actually RAISE your blood pressure!
5. It Can Reduce Bad LDL Cholesterol
For years, we’ve all been trying to lower our cholesterol. We know that having high cholesterol can lead to heart disease, but did you know that there is such a thing as “good” cholesterol, and that the higher your LDL count, the better? Good LDL cholesterol can actually eliminate “bad” HDL cholesterol, and dark chocolate can help raise your good LDL numbers. Yay!
6. It Increases Blood Flow to Your Brain
Our brains need plenty of oxygen to function properly, and dark chocolate contains chemicals that help increase blood flow, and thus oxygen, to your brain. This can help with memory, alertness, and other brain function.
7. There Are Options for People with Diabetes
If you’re diabetic, and want the benefits of chocolate, take heart — there are options for you, too. One way to enjoy dark chocolate without worrying about your blood sugar is to try a sugar-free version. The sugar substitute used in most dark chocolates is very gradually absorbed by your digestive system, so it’s safe for diabetics. But remember — to get the benefits of dark chocolate, you only need to eat a very small amount, and overindulging in sugar-free chocolate can actually work as a laxative. Yikes!
Remember to eat your tiny bit of dark chocolate slowly, letting it melt in your mouth rather than just devouring it whole, and that if you want the health benefits of chocolate, you ought to be eating dark chocolate that’s at least 70% cocoa. Chocolate lovers rejoice! Here’s proof that occasional indulgence is actually a good thing. Which of these benefits of chocolate do you enjoy the most? Or is there another way you know that chocolate is good for you?
Top Photo Credit: jrorci