Health Benefits of Chocolate

Are you looking for a reason to justify your love of chocolate?  Who doesn’t love this sweet, creamy treat right?  In fact, over 50% of all food cravings are for chocolate, and in America, each year the average chocolate consumption is 12 pounds per person.  Now that adds up to a lot of cocoa beans.

Could our chocolate cravings really be for the health benefits that chocolate offers?  Our bodies are quite smart, and they intuitively know what is best.  Chocolate, dark chocolate to be specific, boasts a long list of impressive health benefits.  Probably the most notable health benefit of dark chocolate is it’s incredibly high flavonoid content.  Flavonoids are also called polyphenols.  Flavonoids are powerful plant compounds that act as antioxidants.  Antioxidants are vital because they help rid our bodies of toxins, as well as protect us from free radicals.  And free radicals is what causes aging as well as a whole host of health maladies.

Dark Chocolate Is A Lean Mean Antioxidant Machine

It has 8 times more antioxidant content than strawberries.

1-1/2 oz of true dark chocolate contains the same amount of cancer fighting antioxidants as a 5 oz glass of red wine.

Is Only Dark Chocolate Good For Us?

From a health benefit point of view, yes.  The differences between dark chocolate and milk chocolate primarily is the percentage of cocoa bean.  Most milk chocolates have only 20-30% cocoa bean content.  Milk chocolate also has a high sugar content.  True dark chocolate has a minimum of 70% cocoa bean, and the percentage of cocoa bean in the chocolate is what brings us all those wonderful health benefits when eating this delicious treat.

Why Is High Cocoa Bean Content Important?

Higher Cocoa Bean Content = Higher Flavonoid Content

Higher Flavonoid Content = Higher Antioxidants

Higher Antioxidants = Higher Health Benefits

The bottom line is, the more chocolate is processed, the less flavonoids and the less health benefits (if any) are left in the final product.

Health Benefits Of Dark Chocolate

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 *  Studies prove over and over again that consuming 2 oz of dark chocolate daily can reduce blood pressure.  The high flavonoid content of dark chocolate relaxes blood pressure through the production of nitric oxide.

*  More recent studies by Italian researchers has now shown that eating 3-1/2 oz of dark chocolate every day improves insulin resistance.

*  Dark chocolate can help lower bad cholesterol (LDL) by up to 10%.

*  The high flavonoid content in dark chocolate makes blood platelets less sticky, thereby reducing the risk of blood clotting.  In other words, it acts as an anti-coagulant.

*  Dark chocolate contains serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant.

*  Dark chocolate stimulates endorphine production, which gives us a feeling of pleasure.  One of the endorphine chemicals is phenylethylamine.  (PEA)  Phenylathylamine is also one of the chemicals produced when we are falling in love.  This may be one of the reasons you crave chocolate.  For a dose of that “falling-in-love” rush.  No wonder chocolate, romance and Valentine’s Day go hand-in-hand.

*  This may be a dieter’s dream benefit, in that dark chocolate is not only more filling than milk chocolate, but it also lessens your cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods.  There was a study conducted in which volunteers ate 2 oz of dark chocolate and then waited 15 minutes before eating a meal.  These chocolate eating participants wound up eating on average 12% less at their meal, compared to another group of volunteers who did not eat any chocolate before hand.

*  Dark chocolate has a low glycemic index value.  Similar to oatmeal.

*  Dark chocolate contains an array of vital minerals such as copper, magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron and more.

So there you have it.  An excuse, or better said – good reasons, to eat chocolate.  BUT – make sure it’s true dark chocolate (70% cocoa or higher), and keep your daily portion size limited to 2 oz – 4 oz daily.  Skip the caramel fillings, and try keeping your chocolate in the fridge so that it will be harder to eat too quickly.

Bon Veggie Appetit!

Gina ‘The Veggie Goddess’ Matthews

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