There’s no doubt some forms of chocolate are high in calories, but if you choose carefully, you can indulge in that sweet taste and enjoy a number of health benefits, as well.
9 Reasons to Snack on a Little Chocolate
Over the last several years, scientists have discovered that dark chocolate containing at least 60 percent cocoa solids has health promoting antioxidants that may be good for us in many ways. Here’s a glance at the research so far.
- It may help prevent heart disease. A number of studies have found that consuming dark chocolate may help protect the heart. A 2011 study, for instance, found that high levels of chocolate consumption might be associated with a one-third reduction in the risk of developing heart disease. A 2012 study found that daily consumption of dark chocolate could reduce heart attacks and strokes in people at risk for these conditions. Studies have also shown that dark chocolate may help reduce blood pressure levels.
- It may help you reduce your LDL “bad” cholesterol. A 2012 study found that participants eating 50 grams of dark chocolate for 15 days had lower levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol and higher levels of HDL “good” cholesterol. An earlier 2010 study also found that eating moderate amounts of cocoa was associated with a reduction in bad cholesterol levels.
- It may help you lower your blood sugar levels. The same 2012 study mentioned above also showed that participants eating the dark chocolate had lower blood sugar levels. An earlier 2005 study also found that dark (but not white) chocolate improved insulin sensitivity, helping control blood sugar levels.
- It may help you stay sharp in your old age. A 2013 study found that chocolate might help improve brain health and thinking skills in the elderly. People who initially performed poorly on a memory and reasoning test improved after drinking two cups of cocoa every day for a month.
- It may help you reduce belly fat. A 2013 study published in Nutrition found that teenagers who ate chocolate tended to have lower levels of total and abdominal fat. Researchers looked at nearly 1,500 teens and found those who ate more chocolate had a lower body fat percentage, body mass index, and waist circumference. An earlier 2013 study suggested that individuals who consumed chocolate more frequently had a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who consumed it less often. A 2008 study also showed that dark chocolate was more filling than milk chocolate, and helped lesson cravings for sweet, salty, and fatty foods—with researchers speculating it may be a way to keep weight under control.
- It may make you smart! A 2012 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that countries with more chocolate consumers produced significantly more Nobel laureates, possibly through enhanced cognition. An earlier 2009 study also found that volunteers given large amounts of compounds found in chocolate (flavonols) in a hot cocoa drink were able to perform arithmetic better than those who weren’t, and were also less likely to feel tired or mentally drained.
- It may improve the condition of your skin. A 2006 study found that long-term consumption of cocoa powder helped the skin better protect itself from dangerous UV rays, and also improved skin density and skin hydration. A later 2009 study also showed that participants who ate 20 grams of dark chocolate a day increased their skin’s own ability to protect itself from sun damage.
- It may help quiet coughs. Cocoa contains a compound called “theobromine” which may suppress the “vagus nerve”—the part of the brain that triggers persistent coughs. A study from the United Kingdom found that theobromine may be a more effective cough medicine than traditional remedies. Participants who took tablets containing theobromine were less likely to experience coughing, and also experienced no unwanted side effects, unlike participants taking codeine—a common cough suppressant that often induces drowsiness.
- It may improve your vision. Tired of eating carrots for your eyes? A 2011 study found that eating dark chocolate may improve visual function, at least temporarily. Visual sensitivity was enhanced by up to two hours later in people who ate the dark chocolate bar.
Do you regularly consume dark chocolate? Please share your thoughts.
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Suzanne Price, “Beyond apples: A serving a day of dark chocolate might keep the doctor away,” Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Press release, April 24, 2012, http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-04/foas-baa041812.php.
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University of Copenhagen (2008, December 23). Dark Chocolate Is More Filling Than Milk Chocolate And Lessens Cravings. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 17, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2008/12/081210091039.htm.
Heinrich U, et al., “Long-term ingestion of high flavanol cocoa powder provides photoprotection against UV-induced erythema and improves skin condition in women,” J Nutr. 2006 Jun; 136(6):1565-9, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16702322.
Stefanie Williams, et al., “Eating chocolate can significantly protect the skin from UV light,” Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology September 2009, 8(3):169-173, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1473-2165.2009.00448.x/abstract.
Gaia Vince, “Persistent coughts melt away with chocolate,” New Scientist, November 22, 2004, http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn6699-persistent-coughs-melt-away-with-chocolate.html#.UrCoEHYQFFQ.
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Kate Devlin, “Scientists reveal how eating chocolate can help improve your maths,” Telegraph, April 3, 2009, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/5095760/Scientists-reveal-how-eating-chocolate-can-help-improve-your-maths.html.