Sweet News: How Chocolate Could Boost Your Health and Heart!

The cocoa bean, which chocolate is made of, may just be the world’s healthiest bean. It is believed to help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, treat chronic fatigue, repair blood vessels in the liver, improve the skin, fight dental plaque, and even enhance your thinking. Chocolate’s impressive list of benefits has been backed up by numerous studies, adding more evidence to this already well-established understanding of this delicious food.

The Mayans and the Aztecs were among the first civilizations to incorporate chocolate in their diets. They believed that chocolate had healing properties and consumed it unsweetened, sometimes mixed with hot peppers. Today, many people enjoy chocolate for its taste, but recent studies show that it also has remarkable health benefits.

The Power of Antioxidants

Research from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows that two tablespoons of cocoa contain more antioxidants than a cup of blueberries, a half glass of red wine, or four cups of green tea. Antioxidants help to protect the body from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals. The higher the antioxidant content in a food, the more effective it is in preventing diseases and promoting overall health.

Chocolate and Oral Health

Chocolate is not just good for your overall health, but it can actually be good for your teeth too. Contrary to popular belief, chocolate without added sugar is not harmful to dental health. A study from the University of Osaka graduate School in Japan showed that rinsing with a cocoa extract decreases bacteria and plaque found on teeth.

Chocolate and Heart Health

Dark chocolate has been associated with a remarkable one-third reduction in the risk of developing heart disease. A study conducted by the University of Cambridge found that the highest levels of chocolate consumption were linked to a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29% decrease in stroke compared to the lowest levels. One explanation is that chocolate boosts the body’s production of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the so-called “good cholesterol.” HDL levels have been shown to be increased by flavanols in chocolate, which are a type of antioxidant. This increase in HDL is accompanied by a decrease in low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad cholesterol.”

Chocolate and Blood Vessel Health

Flavanols in chocolate can also protect the hearts of smokers by increasing their levels of nitric oxide. This increased nitric oxide in the blood can offset some of the harmful blood vessel contraction linked to the free radicals produced by tobacco smoke. Chocolate may also benefit people with diabetes, as it can help support better blood vessel health.

Chocolate and Liver Health

Dark chocolate has been found to reduce liver damage in individuals with cirrhosis. Spanish researchers discovered that dark chocolate can relax the blood vessels in the liver, thus decreasing the hypertensive destruction caused by this disease.

Chocolate and Energy

Cocoa has long been known for providing extra energy. A study on people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) found that chocolate has a “beneficial effect in improving fatigue and residual function.” Introducing healthy chocolate, such as dark chocolate that is high in cocoa solids and low in fat and sugar, can be beneficial for subjects with CFS as part of a healthy diet or formal treatment protocol.

To experience the health benefits of chocolate, make sure to consume high-quality dark chocolate that is rich in cocoa solids, low in fat, and low in sugar. Although it may have a slightly bitter taste compared to sweetened milk chocolate, the potential health benefits are much sweeter.