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The next time you eat a piece of chocolate, you may not have to feel so guilty about it. Despite its bad reputation for causing weight gain, several health benefits may be associated with this delicious treat.
Chocolate is made from the tropical Theobroma Cacao tree seeds. Its earliest use dates back to the civilizations in Mesoamerica. After the European discovery of the Americas, chocolate became very popular in the wider world, and its demand exploded. Chocolate has since become a popular food product that millions enjoy every day, thanks to its unique, rich, and sweet taste.
Chocolate’s antioxidant potential may have a range of health benefits. The higher the cocoa content, as in darker the chocolate, the more benefits it renders. Dark chocolate may also contain less fat and sugar, but it is important to check the label.
Eating chocolate may have the following benefits:
One study, published in The Journal of Nutrition, suggests that chocolate consumption might help reduce no soluble cholesterol levels, which is also known as “bad cholesterol.”
The researchers set out to investigate whether chocolate bars containing plant sterols (PS) and cocoa flavanols (CF) have any effect on cholesterol levels. The research concluded that regular consumption of chocolate bars containing PS and CF, as part of a low-fat diet, positively supports cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol and improve blood pressure indices.
A group of scientists at Harvard Medical School has suggested that drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day could help keep the brain healthy and reduce memory decline caused due to aging.
The researchers noticed that hot chocolate helped improved blood flow to parts of the brain where it was needed.
Below is a quoted text from one of the most landmark research papers in this area, that discusses cerebral blood flow response to flavanol-rich cocoa in healthy elderly humans (PMC2518374) –
“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.”
Farzaneh A. Sorond
Researcher and Author
Research suggests that consuming chocolate could help lower the risk of developing heart disease by one-third. Based on the observations, it can be concluded that higher levels of chocolate consumption could be linked to a lower risk of cardiometabolic disorders.
A group of Canadian scientists, in a survey and study involving 44,489 individuals, found that people who consumed one serving of chocolate daily were 22% less likely to experience a brain stroke than those who did not. Also, those who had about two ounces of chocolate a week were 46 percent less likely to die from a brain stroke. The findings concluded that eating up to 100 grams of chocolate daily may be linked to a lower risk of brain stroke.
According to a study presented in the year 2016 by the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine in Atlanta (Georgia, United States of America), eating 30 grams of chocolate daily during pregnancy benefits fetal growth and development.
Chocolate may help athletes cover more distance while using less oxygen. Findings published in the journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition suggest that small portions of dark chocolate boost oxygen levels in the blood, during fitness training.
The study concludes that dark chocolates contain flavonols known as epicatechins, which enhance the release of nitric oxide in the body, similar to the effect of beetroot juice.
Manufacturers of light, or milk, chocolate, claim that their product is better for health because it contains milk, and milk provides protein and calcium. Supporters of dark chocolate point to the higher iron content and levels of antioxidants in their product.
In commonly accepted views, the darker the chocolate, the higher the concentration of Cocoa; and so, in theory, dark chocolates contain higher levels of antioxidants. Nevertheless, nutrients vary widely in commercially available chocolates, depending on the brand and type you choose. It is best and highly recommended that you check the label for nutrients and their contents always before taking that choco bite.