Health Benefits of Chocolate
- Monday, 20 September 2010
Did I make you all do a little dance in your seats? Let’s talk about why I like chocolate.
What’s the deal with this sinfully delicious food? Are the claims true? Is it good for us, bad for us, an aphrodisiac, love potion or antidepressant? Chocolate has gotten mixed reviews in the world of health and it is time to set the record straight.
In the worst of times, chocolate can be the best of friends. The reason for this is because of a chemical connection. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), a neurotransmitter that is released by neurons at moments of euphoria. PEA stimulates a neurotransmitter called anandamide, which provokes a natural “high” and releases pleasant feelings as well as having a calming effect on the neurological system helping to lessen anxiety and make us feel more relaxed.
Nutritional Highlights of Dark Chocolate:
Contains flavonoids (plant pigments) that are responsible for antioxidant activity and are important for protecting against damage to the good cholesterol and the lining of the arteries.
Unlike the saturated fat found in meat and dairy products, the saturated fat in chocolate does not elevate cholesterol levels.
Acts as a natural anti-inflammatory, regulating blood pressure and blood flow because of the high levels of arginine – an amino acid that stimulates nitric acid, allowing the blood vessels to dilate.
Stimulates endorphin production, which gives a feeling of pleasure.
Contains serotonin, which acts as an antidepressant.
Contains theobromine, caffeine and other substances that are stimulants, which can be helpful in helping to increase concentration and focus.
Chocolate can reduce sensitivity to pain because of the high amounts of flavonoids, which prevent blood platelets from aggregating – having a similar action as aspirin.
Now hold on before you run off to buy a chocolate bar! Not all chocolate is created equal. Chocolate is still a very high fat food usually loaded with dairy products, fillers and sugar.
What To Look For In A Quality Chocolate:
Chocolate is made from the cacao bean, so if you don’t see that ingredient listed it’s not the real thing.
High quality semi-sweet dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% or more.
Fair-trade and organic will ensure your cacao beans are coming from a good source and are pesticide free.
Sweetened with raw organic sugar cane or honey.
Dark chocolate. (Milk chocolate is usually loaded with modified milk ingredients high in saturated fat and tons of sugar.)
Pass on chocolate labeled “artificial chocolate” or “chocolate flavoured”.
How much chocolate can you eat?
When it comes to a bar of good quality dark chocolate, two-three small squares should be more than enough to satisfy your sweet tooth and give you the health benefits of this delicious food. (But no more than three times per week.)
Chocolate still contains small amounts of caffeine, so if you are caffeine sensitive remember to enjoy your chocolate earlier in the day.
Eat the chocolate slowly…..enjoy and savor every sweet moment.
Murray, Michael. “The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods”. Atria Books 2005.