Chocolate lovers around the globe can finally rejoice! It’s a fabulous fact that there has now been over a decade of articles published in scientific journals confirming that everyone’s favorite treat has proven health benefits.
As some of these studies elevate chocolate to almost superfood status, it’s enough to put a smile on anyone’s face. Increasing evidence suggests that this once guilty pleasure, blamed for everything from acne to weight gain, could in fact be truly good for you. Here’s the proof.
Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
1. Dark chocolate can make you smarter
A recent study published in the Journal of Hypertension claims that a nice cup of cocoa at bed time can actually improve brain function. The research showed that elderly participants who consumed chocolate drinks containing high levels of flavanols, had improved mental performance after only 8 weeks.
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2. Dark chocolate keeps you young
One study showed that certain types of cocoa and dark chocolate have a higher anti-oxidant content than fruits like blueberries and açai berries. Anti-oxidants are important as they help to combat cell damage caused by free radical activity.
A high intake of anti-oxidants is believed to help prevent the development of debilitating conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.
3. Dark chocolate is good for your blood pressure
According to the American Medical Association, regularly consuming cocoa products can even help reduce your blood pressure. This is because cocoa contains high levels of polyphenols (anti-oxidants found in all fruits and vegetables) which if consumed over time can help to reduce hypertension.
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4. Dark chocolate is good for your heart
Eating chocolate can also lower your risk of cardio-vascular disease. In a study carried out over 15 years, participants who regularly drank cocoa cut their risk of dying of cardiovascular disease by up to 50%.
5. Eating chocolate really does improve your mood!
Investigations carried out by scientists in Australia earlier this year, showed that participants who drank high dose concentrations of cocoa polyphenols reported feeling calmer and more content.
This may be because cocoa contains a substance known as phenylethylamine (or PEA) the same chemical your brain creates when you fall in love. PEA encourages your brain to release endorphins, and so eating dark chocolate (as we already know!) makes you feel a whole lot happier.
What type of chocolate should you eat?
But before you start dancing around like Willy Wonka in his chocolate factory, it pays to know that not all chocolate is created equal, so this isn’t an excuse to rush out and scoff as much of it as you can get your hands on!
Milk chocolate contains a large amount of sugar and fat, and not enough of the all important flavanols which are so beneficial to health. Generally speaking, the higher the cocoa content, the better, so dark, organic chocolate made from 70% cocoa or more, is the best kind to look out for.
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Other benefits of dark chocolate
Finally, as cocoa butter (made from cocoa beans) is best known in the beauty business for its moisturizing properties, why not have a go at making this indulgent chocolate face mask for a real feel good treat?
Great for all skin types, this mask will help smooth out wrinkles, lighten blemishes, and give your skin a healthy glow.
- 2 bars of dark, organic chocolate
- 2/3 cup of milk
- 1 teaspoon of sea salt
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- Melt the chocolate in a microwave for 2 to 3 minutes, allow to cool but not set.
- Mix the sea salt, brown sugar, and milk together in a bowl.
- Mix all the ingredients together and apply to the skin.
Sarah Murphy trained at the College of Naturopathic Medicine in London, England, where she specialized in Western Herbal Medicine and Ayurveda. She writes widely about natural health, and is passionate about empowering people to take better care of their own well-being.
Featured photo by 96dpi