is, without a doubt, the nation’s favourite guilty pleasure, but what if we told you it wasn’t such a naughty treat after all? We’ve got some very, very good news for chocolate lovers out there – chocolate can actually be good for your health!
If you haven’t run off to the nearest shop to buy a bar just yet, then read on to find out even more benefits to the brown stuff, including how chocolate can help to beat heart disease, boost your brain power and more. This, along with its cancer-beating antioxidants and aphrodisiac properties, makes chocolate our new favourite food (as if it wasn’t already!)
To get maximum health benefits from your chocolate, opt for dark chocolate which has a cocoa percentage of at least 70%.
Chocolate helps you lose weight (yes, really!)
We’re not talking about endless chocolate snacking here, but Professor Tim Spector of King’s College London has stated that the microbes in chocolate could help you shed the pounds, as they can help to cultivate ‘good’ bacteria in your gut. His research, which also applies to cheese and red wine (hurrah!), shows that ‘The more diverse foods we eat, the more varieties of microbes in our bodies, which makes us healthier.
‘Ultimately, everyone should treat their gut as a beautiful English garden,’ he explains. ‘The more varieties of microbes and foods we eat, the more flowers our gardens have and the healthier they look. Throw in some probiotics like yoghurts and cheese, along with nuts, seeds and oils to nourish the microbes, and our gardens will be flourishing. Avoid processed foods and they are limited in microbe levels because they are mainly made up of chemicals. And enjoy some cheese, chocolate and red wine.’
As if that wasn’t enough, neuroscientist Will Clower claims that eating a small square of dark chocolate before a meal will make you feel more full, which will make you eat less. We’ve gone one step further and actually have a diet plan centered around eating chocolate – you’re welcome!
Chocolate increases brain power
A 2016 study published in the journal Appetite showed that people who eat chocolate at least once a week saw their memory and abstract thinking improve. Nutrition researcher Georgina Crichton, the lead analyst of the study, told the Washington Post that this boost would help you with everyday tasks ‘such as remembering a phone number, or your shopping list, or being able to do two things at once, like talking and driving at the same time’.
And this isn’t the first time that chocolate’s been shown to boost brain power either – in 2007, Mars discovered that antioxidants found in a certain type of cocoa could rapidly increase blood flow to parts of the brain. With cocoa being a main ingredient in chocolate, this again shows the potential health benefits of one of the nation’s favourite treats. The study revealed that cocoa could have a positive effect on adults suffering from memory loss and mental decline in later life – great news for the ageing population.
Chocolate fights heart disease
Patients with high risk of heart disease such as those with Type-2 diabetes are to be given a new bar of chocolate as daily medication against angina and heart attacks. The specially-devised chocolate bar isn’t your run-of-the-mill Mars or Dairy Milk but is a form of chocolate scientists have created. And this chocolate could potentially have a better effect on beating heart problems than many currently prescribed drugs. The chocolate treatment is still in trial form at the moment but we’ve got our fingers crossed that in a couple of years you’ll be prescribed chocolate on the NHS!
Chocolate lowers blood pressure
The antioxidant properties of chocolate make it a superfood. As long as it has a cocoa content of 60% or more, dark chocolate is full of antioxidants and can really help to lower blood pressure. The flavonoids (antioxidants) in the chocolate produce something called nitric oxide in the body which improves blood flow, and as a result lowers blood pressure. Not all chocolate does the trick – it’s a case of the darker the better and this applies if you’re watching your weight too. The darker the chocolate, the lower in fat and sugar it is too – even more reason to eat it!
Chocolate boosts your sex drive
Chocolate is an aphrodisiac. It contains a chemical that is released naturally in the human body when you’re in love. Chocolate also contains dopamine which is a natural painkiller and serotonin which produces feelings of pleasure. The melting point of chocolate is slightly below our body temperature so it gives a pleasurable sensory experience when it melts in the mouth. All these things combined mean that it really puts you in the mood for love.
Chocolate makes you happy
Aside from the obvious happiness that comes with eating chocolate, you also get a good dose of phenylethylamine (PEA) – a chemical which is released when you fall in love. We knew our love for chocolate was true love!
Chocolate reduces the risk of cancer
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Those antioxidant flavonoids found in cocoa have yet another use – they can help prevent cancer. They work by stopping the body from making ‘free radicals’ which damage cells, and in turn can lead to cancer. Researchers in the US have done experiments that show the antioxidants in chocolate are enough to mean that eating chocolate rich in cocoa just three times a month could add a year to your life expectancy – we wonder what happens if you eat it every day…