We must admit we are often pretty down on refined sugar and chocolate here at Lumity. But with Easter around the corner we decided to come up with some reasons why it’s good for you. In moderation, of course.
This week you are likely to be surrounded by chocolate. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing as chocolate does have some significant health benefits.
Here are ten very good reasons why it’s ok to chow down on chocolate this Easter!
The darker the chocolate the better it is for you (and white chocolate is not really chocolate, sorry!). Dark chocolate is packed with minerals including potassium, zinc and selenium, and a 100g bar of dark (70 per cent or more) choc provides 67 per cent of the RDA of iron.
Dark chocolate and cacoa nibs are both healthy forms of chocolate if you pick the right products.
This is because cocoa contains compounds called flavanols. These are naturally produced by plants and found in plant foods such as fruit, vegetables, tea, coffee, wine, grains and chocolate.
Chocolate is good for your heart
Chocolate is often linked to the heart as we give chocolate to those we love. And it is a common food to tuck into to get over a broken heart.
Science has also made the link between the two as well as studies have shown what benefits chocolate has on our hearts for a number of reasons.
It’s been found chocolate helps make our arteries more flexible and prevents white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels – both common causes of artery clogging.
It also has inflammation-fighting properties and research published in The British Medical Journal, suggests that consuming chocolate could help lower the risk of developing heart disease by a third.
Chocolate may prevent cancer
There is increasing research linking cocoa with the way in which cancer cells behave. It’s thought that the presence of a compound in it called pentamericprocyanidin disrupts cancer cells’ ability to spread.
A study by Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University found that cancer cells treated with this compound stopped the proteins needed for cancer to grow from working properly and also the cells were stopped from dividing.
Chocolate is good for your brain
Scientists at Harvard Medical School have suggested that drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day could help keep the brain healthy and reduce memory decline in older people.
This is because it helps improve blood flow to the parts of the brain it’s most needed. “As different areas of the brain need more energy to complete their tasks, they also need greater blood flow,” explained the lead researcher.
“This relationship, called neurovascular coupling, may play an important role in diseases such as Alzheimer’s.”
Another study found a cocoa extract, called lavado, might help those with Alzheimer’s because of the way it can reduce or prevent damage to nerve pathways. It could help with decline and a 2016 study suggests eating chocolate at least once a week can improve your cognitive function.
The flavanols found in chocolate have anti-inflammatory qualities too and have been found helpful in treating brain injuries, including concussion.
Chocolate reduces cholesterol
Consuming chocolate has been found to have a positive effect on cholesterol. It lowers levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol while also raising the ‘good’ which overall is great for lowering you risk of heart disease.
A study into how chocolate consumption might help reduce cholesterol levels concluded: “Regular consumption of chocolate bars containing plant sterols and cocoa flavanols, as part of a low-fat diet, may support cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol and improving blood pressure.”
Chocolate reduces your risk of stroke
There has been much research into how helpful chocolate is in reducing stroke risk.
Researchers in Finland found that chocolate consumption lowers the risk of suffering a stroke – by a staggering 17 per cent average in the group of men they tested.
And a 2011 Swedish study found that women who ate more than 45 grams of chocolate a week had a 20% lower risk of stroke than women who treated themselves to fewer than 9 grams of the sweet stuff.
Canadian scientists found people who ate chocolate were 22% less likely to have a stroke than those who didn’t. Also, those who had a stroke but regularly consumed chocolate were 46 percent less likely to die as a result.
But why? According to researchers at John Hopkins University it’s because dark chocolate contains a compound called epicatechin which shields cells in your brain and protects it from damage caused by stroke.
Chocolate makes you feel better
If you reach for chocolate when you are feeling upset or stressed out there’s a very good reason why. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which is the same chemical that your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. PEA encourages your brain to release feel-good endorphins.
Chocolate is good for your skin
Although the flavonols in chocolate have been found to protect the skin from UV sun damage, you would still be better slapping on some sun cream rather than tucking into a bar of Green and Blacks!
But there are still some anti-aging skin benefits from chocolate thanks to the way it improves circulation and blood flow. The anti-clotting and blood thinning abilities of choc have even been likened to aspirin.
It can help you lose weight
This may seem ridiculous but eating chocolate can actually aid weight loss!
Neuroscientist Will Clower says a small square of good choc melted on the tongue 20 minutes before a meal triggers the hormones in the brain that make it think you are full.
This means you will reduce the amount you eat later on. And finishing a meal with the same small trigger could stop you snacking later.
If you are craving chocolate you are better off having some high quality, low-sugar varieties rather than working your way to giving in by snacking on a host of ‘good’ foods first!
It has been found that regular chocolate eaters often have lower BMI and a study from the University of Copenhagen, suggests dark chocolate can reduce cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods.
Chocolate may prevent diabetes
Diabetes and sugary foods do not go together, but dark chocolate in moderation may delay or prevent the onset of diabetes. This is because cocoa has been found to improve insulin sensitivity.
The study looked at unprocessed dark chocolate, which has a more bitter taste as the bitterness comes directly from the flavanols.
Chocolate can make you smarter
If you think after reading the other nine points that eating chocolate could be a smart move – you must already be enjoying the brown stuff!
Chocolate has been found to make people sharper.
British psychologists found theflavanols in chocolate helped people with their mental maths.
Subjects in the study had an easier time counting backwards from a randomly-generated number between 800 and 999 after drinking a cup of hot chocolate than they did without the cocoa.
“The findings suggest students who binge on chocolate when revising for exams may gain a real benefit from doing so,” said the authors.
If you need to be on your A-game then it might be wise to up your chocolate consumption beforehand.