What we intuitively seemed to know about since childhood is being scientifically proven more and more these days. What we knew was: chocolate is good! Chocolate, specifically dark chocolate, is being touted more and more through research and by medical doctors that it can benefit our health—physically, mentally and emotionally.
Nice to know that one of our many pleasures in life is good for our heart. A number of scientific studies have documented that dark chocolate is high in heart-healthy flavonoids, which protect against free radicals that may cause cell and tissue damage. These antioxidants also inhibit plaque formation in the arteries and improve the flexibility of blood vessels.
Chocolate can naturally elevate one’s mood due several of its constituents including tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin (the feel good hormone) anandamide (a natural brain chemical similar to cannabinoids in marijuana), theobromine and phenyl ethylamine (which can cause feelings similar to being “in love”).
There are also numerous vitamins and minerals contained in chocolate: copper, potassium, phosphorous and magnesium. Chocolate is one of the richest sources of magnesium in the plant kingdom and this mineral has been shown to alleviate symptoms of PMS.
A study found that eating about an ounce and a half of dark chocolate a day for two weeks reduced levels of stress hormones in the bodies of people feeling highly stressed. Other research indicates that eating dark chocolate is effective in lowering blood pressure. That is because cacao contains polyphenols, a chemical substance that helps to control blood pressure.
There is only a trace amount of caffeine in chocolate. So those sensitive to this stimulant can still enjoy this pleasure without fear of being kept up at night—especially if they indulge during the day!
The Right Choice
In order to receive the health benefits of chocolate it is best to choose a chocolate that is dark, has little sugar and no dairy product or other additives and preservatives added. And don’t even think about washing your chocolate down with milk. Findings indicate that milk may interfere with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate and negate the health benefits.
So when choosing a dark chocolate avoid these ingredients if you want to derive the most health benefits from the chocolate: trans fat, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), artificial sweetener, soy proteins, MSG, milk or milk byproducts, preservatives. The purer dark chocolate may have a higher price, but you may also find that you eat less and are satisfied more.
So when giving your sweetheart (or yourself) the pleasure of chocolate candy this Valentine’s Day, select the dark chocolate with the right ingredients and you are also giving the gift of health!