For hundreds of years chocolate (really cocoa) has been a beloved comfort food. Used as form of refuge for the heartbroken and depressed or as a token of affection from a smitten admirer. Chocolate in all it’s wonderful forms has made a lasting impression on our culture and our taste buds. Despite the delicious nature of chocolate, we have been told that it is unhealthy and should be avoided. But maybe chocolate isn’t as unhealthy as you’ve been told. In fact, recent studies suggest that chocolate has a wealth of health benefits that most people are unaware of.
Here is my take on the top 5 health benefits of chocolate:
1. Muscle recovery
A study performed at the James Madison University, showed that athletes who consumed chocolate milk on a regular basis, had an equal or greater rate of muscle recovery time after exercise. The chocolate milk also gave the athletes a chance to recover some of the minerals, vitamins and fluid that was lost previously.
2. Brain Booster
A study presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco, suggests that cocoa may actually improve memory and brain function while decreasing the decline of brain function, particularly with old age.
3. Circulatory benefits
A host of studies prove the circulatory benefits of chocolate. While many chemicals contribute to these benefits., the main benefits seem to be coming from epicatechin, which reduces blood pressure while working as an anti-oxidant. These circulatory benefits seems to be wide reaching within the body and contribute to both mental and physical health. Some studies even suggest that chocolate can reduce cholesterol and even reduce the risk of having a heart attack.
4. Mood Enhancement
Chocolate contains a chemical called pheny ethylamine, a mild mood elevator. This chemical helps to release endorphins in your brain giving you an extra boost of pleasure and satisfaction. There are also carbohydrates in chocolate which raise serotonin levels in the brain adding to the sense of well being. Some even suggest that the smell of chocolate alone stimulates theta brain waves which contribute to relaxation.
Aside from the many cultural uses (see Valentines Days, Casanova & Montezuma) of chocolate as an aphrodisiac, there is some real science to back it up. A chemical known as PEA (phenylethylamine) resides in human brains and helps regulate emotions and pleasure. When chocolate is eaten, this chemical is released causing feelings of pleasure and love. While PEA is debated in the scientific community, other chemicals like Tryptophan contribute to the feelings of well being associated with chocolate.
- People who eat chocolate statistically live one year longer than those who don’t
- Flavinoids in chocolate may help blood vessels retain elasticity
- Healers once used chocolate to treat bronchitis
A Health Note:
This above information is not medical advice. While chocolate has some amazing benefits, it must be eaten in moderation due to the sugar and high amount of calories. Also it should be noted that dark chocolate contains less sugar and calories and more of the cocoa which is the source of the health benefits.