Health benefits of chocolate

Dark chocolate has recently been discovered to be healthy if consumed in moderation. Let us discus the health benefits of eating chocolate. 

Despite its bad reputation for causing weight gain, there are a number of health benefits associated with this delicious treat. Next time you eat a piece of chocolate, you should not have to feel overly guilty about it. 
Chocolate is a complex food with over 300 compounds and chemicals in each bite. To really enjoy and appreciate chocolate, take the time to taste it. Try to assess the appearance, smell, feel and taste of each piece.

Chocolate is made from cocoa, rich in flavonoids. These flavonoids help protect plants from environmental toxins and help repair damage. They can be found in a variety of foods, such as fruits and vegetables. When we eat foods rich in flavonoids, it appears that we also benefit from this "antioxidant" power.

Antioxidants are believed to 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, like cigarette smoke.

If your body does not have enough antioxidants to combat the amount of oxidation that occurs, it can become damaged by free radicals. For example, an increase in oxidation can cause low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as "bad" cholesterol, to form plaque on the artery walls. 

Dark chocolate contains a large number of antioxidants (nearly 8 times the number found in strawberries). Flavonoids also help relax blood pressure through the production of nitric oxide, and balance certain hormones in the body. 

Dark chocolate is the most nutritious form of chocolate. Compared with milk chocolate, it contains more than double the amount of heart-healthy flavonoids. Milk chocolate has another strike against it: The added milk it contains may reduce the body’s ability to absorb the beneficial flavonoids. 

To enjoy the delicious taste of chocolate and receive the benefits of flavonoids, choose a dark-chocolate variety that contains at least 70 percent cacao, or cocoa.

Take a look at some of the surprising health benefits below, then tell us in the comments why chocolate is a part of your healthy diet.

1) Good for heart health
Dark chocolate is good for your heart. A small bar of it everyday can help keep your heart and cardiovascular system running well. Flavanols are the main type of flavonoid found in cocoa and chocolate. 

In addition to having antioxidant qualities, research shows that flavanols have other potential influences on vascular health, such as lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and making blood platelets less sticky and able to clot.

2) Chocolate is Good for Your Brain
Dark chocolate increases blood flow to the brain as well as to the heart. Dark chocolate also contains several chemical compounds that have a positive effect on your mood and cognitive health. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), the same chemical your brain creates when you feel like you're falling in love. PEA encourages your brain to release endorphins, so eating dark chocolate will make you feel happier.

Scientists at Harvard Medical School recommend drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day in order to keep the brain healthy and prevent memory decline in older people. The researchers said that hot chocolate can help preserve blood flow in working areas of the brain.

3) Helps in weight loss
Because it's rich in fiber, dark chocolate can actually help keep you full, so you'll eat less. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen found that dark chocolate is far more filling, offering a feeling of satiety for long enough to lessen cravings for sweet, salty, and fatty foods. 

So if indulging in a bit of healthy dark chocolate should not only make it easy for you to stick to the small portion recommended for optimal health, but it should make it easier for you to stick to your weight loss regime.

4) Chocolate helps to reduce the risk of diabetes.
A research in Italy suggested that consumption of dark chocolate significantly lowered the insulin resistance, and also reduced the Systolic blood pressure, the first number in a blood pressure reading. The study found that regularly eating chocolate increases insulin sensitivity, thereby reducing risk for diabetes. 

5) Helps to reduce fatigue
A small study in England suggested that consumption of 1 1/2 ounces of 85% cocoa dark chocolate every day for eight weeks reduced the fatigue feeling in people suffering with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. And surprisingly, no weight gain was reported in the study.

6) Chocolate help you feel relaxed
The researchers think that chocolate enhances the action of neurotransmitters, like serotonin, which in turn helps regulating the mood and sleep. More research is needed on this though. 
Dark chocolate also contains caffeine, a mild stimulant.

7) Increases longevity
People who eat chocolate 3 times a month live almost a year longer than those who eat less of it.

8) Chocolate may prevent stroke
Dark chocolate also helps reduce your risk of stroke. Canadian scientists carried out a study involving 44,489 people and found that people eating chocolate were 22 per cent less likely to suffer a stroke than those who didn't. In addition, those who had a stroke but regularly consumed chocolate were 46 percent less likely to die as a result.

The above information doesn't mean that you should eat a pound of chocolate a day. Chocolate is still a high-calorie, high-fat food. Most of the studies done used no more than 100 grams, or about 3.5 ounces, of dark chocolate a day to get the benefits.

One bar of dark chocolate has around 400 calories. If you eat half a bar of chocolate a day, you must balance those 200 calories by eating less of something else. Cut out other sweets or snacks and replace them with chocolate to keep your total calories the same.

So the bottom line is that eating a bar of healthy chocolate once in a while (like 3 times a month as suggested by the study) promotes good health, happiness and sleep, which in long term can improve the lifespan of a person.

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