The Benefits of Eating Chocolate

I bring you this blog from a slightly odd and uncomfortable mental and physical place. I’m battling between the teeth chattering mania of a sugar rush and the total slump of a self induced carbohydrate coma.

The reason for this rather unnatural state is a combination of Easter eggs and hot cross buns. In order to put some positive spin on my gluttony I decided to research the benefits of chocolate! Sorry, hot cross buns were just a step too far. But chocolate! Amazing! Some truly remarkable facts that will allow you to totally over indulge without the guilt! Kinda.

The secret behind chocolate’s powerful punch is cacao, also the source of the sweet’s distinct taste. Packed with healthy chemicals like flavonoids and theobromine, this little bean is a disease-killing bullet. The only problem is cacao on its own is bitter, chalky, nasty stuff.

Enter milk, sugar, and butter—good for your taste buds, not always good for your health. Besides adding calories, these can dilute the benefits of cacao. Ideally, stick to chocolate with at least 70 percent cacao, (or cocoa, which is cacao in its roasted, ground form). Ideally you should limit yourself to 7 ounces, or about four dark chocolate bars, a week. Good luck.

In a 9-year Swedish study of more than 31,000 women, those who ate one or two servings of dark chocolate each week cut their risk for heart failure by as much as a third. If you’re wondering how you can add dark chocolate to your diet plan without putting on pounds, the good news is that it should be easier than you expect.

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen found that dark chocolate is far more filling, offering more of a feeling of satiety than its lighter-colored sibling. That is, dark chocolate lessens 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 diet in general. Boom!

Women who ate chocolate daily during their pregnancy reported that they were better able to handle stress than mothers-to-be who abstained. Also, a Finnish study found their babies were happier and smiled more. Hmm, so your options are popping a piece of premium chocolate or sticking a dummy in your screaming baby’s mouth? Personally, I’d be tempted to eat the chocolate myself but I’m powerless!

Chocolate as a diabetes foe? Really? Sure enough. In a small Italian study, participants who ate a candy bar’s worth of dark chocolate once a day for 15 days saw their potential for insulin resistance drop by nearly half. “Flavonoids increase nitric oxide production,” says lead researcher Claudio Ferri, M.D., a professor at the University of L’Aquila in Italy. “And that helps control insulin sensitivity.”

How about that danger of reaching for the choc when your life goes off the rails? As it turns out, that kind of emotional eating might not be such a bad thing. You know what kind of havoc stress and its sneaky sidekick cortisol can wreak on your body. Swiss scientists (obviously, right??) found that when very anxious people ate an ounce and a half of dark chocolate every day for two weeks, their stress hormone levels were significantly reduced and the metabolic effects of stress were partially mitigated. After a breakup, break out a dark chocolate bar rather than the Ben and Jerry’s.

Research has also linked dark chocolate to sun-protection, increased intelligence and a possible cure for coughs and diarrhoea. Impressive eh?

I should just add that these health properties to NOT exist in the jelly beans/Smarties/dolly mixture which may also be lurking.

Chocs away, my lovelies!!!

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