Is there such a thing as healthy chocolate?
My hubby is addicted to dark chocolate. It’s his one vice, and as far as questionable habits go, this one is agreeably pretty mild. Nonetheless, in an effort to help him feel better about his addiction, I set out to learn whether something so tasty could actually be GOOD for him. Studies prove the answer is a resounding yes!
CACAO is the secret behind chocolate’s health benefits. The cacao bean is packed with antioxidants - nature’s little defense mechanisms that can help the human body fight free radicals, improve heart health and boost our immune systems. Its polyphenols, in particular, help combat memory loss and gum disease. You can pair it with fruit, for example by adding cacao nibs to a smoothie, or dipping strawberries in melted dark chocolate. Remember the darker the better, as it means less milk and sugar and more of the healthy cacao.
FLAVONOIDS help protect plants from environmental toxins and help repair damage. The can be found in abundance in a variety of fruits and vegetables. When we eat foods rich in flavonoids, it appears that we also benefit from this “antioxidant” power.
ANTIOXIDANTS help the body’s cells resist damage caused by free radicals that are formed by normal bodily processes, such as breathing, and from environmental contaminants. If your body doesn’t have enough antioxidants to fight free radicals, it can become damaged. An example is plaque forming on artery walls or your skin looking dull and less beautiful
FLAVANOLS are the main type of flavonoid found in cocoa and chocolate. In addition to containing antioxidants, they can also lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain and heart, and as one study suggests, heighten your brain's level of sharpness or alertness after consumption!
Because flavanols improve blood flow, cacao has also been shown in studies to improve performance and alertness for two to three hours after consuming. Researchers at Oxford University studied the long term effects of chocolate on the brain. In a group of 2,000 people over the age of 70, they found that those who consumed flavanol-rich chocolate, wine or tea scored significantly higher on cognitive tests than those who didn’t. So the next time you are feeling sluggish, grab yourself a piece of dark chocolate and leave the Energy drinks behind!
A study at the National Heart and Lung Institute in London found that chocolate quieted coughs as well as codeine, without any of the negative side effects like grogginess and impaired alertness. The theobromine in cacao, which is responsible for its “feel good” effect, also helps suppress the vagus nerve, and calms a cough. If the nasty winter cold catches you, drink some hot cocoa before bed rather than a spoonful of cough syrup.
Maybe its not free license to eating snickers bars by the dozens, but you can feel free to enjoy moderate portions of dark chocolate a few times a week without negatively impacting your dietary lifestyle.
Lori Kenyon Farley @ Project Juice
Co-Founder of Project Juice, Lori is also currently a member of the New York State Bar Association and a certified nutritional consultant. While upholding her degrees, she adds international fitness competitor (she placed first in the FitnessModel Category in the 2010 Natural Olympia), model and public speaker to her resume. Lori also maintains a very active lifestyle in addition to investing most of her time, energy and expertise into Project Juice.