Health: A DARK CHOCOLATE A DAY, KEEPS THE DOCTOR AT BAY!

by tybmmjourno

It turns out that dark chocolate reduces body mass, prevents blood clots, may prevent cancer, and even helps in math! Read to know more..

Now here is something which is hard not to be ecstatic about!
Researches published in the prestigious ‘Journal of the American Medical Association’ and ‘American Journal of Clinical Nutrition’, have examined the effects of dark chocolate on various heart health properties.
Researchers from San Diego State University conducted a small controlled study illustrating that eating dark chocolate has positive effects in lowering blood sugar levels and “bad” cholesterol levels and increasing “good” cholesterol levels- all of which could have positive effects on heart health.
For the 15-day period study; researchers had 31 people eat either 50 grams of regular dark chocolate (70% cocoa), dark chocolate (70% cocoa) that has been overheated, or white chocolate (0% cocoa). The study participants ate their assigned chocolate while their blood glucose, circulating lipids, blood pressure and blood flow were all measured before and after the study.
The following is what I could conclude from the study:

Is dark chocolate really healthy?

Dark chocolate contains a lot more cocoa than other forms of chocolate.
Many people are not aware that chocolate comes from plants, which means it contains many health benefits. These benefits are due to ‘flavonoids’ which act as antioxidants. Antioxidants serve as scavengers in the body that destroy most of the dangerous free radicals and other destructive molecules that lead to many heart diseases. Antioxidants are present even in tea, fruits, vegetables; but dark chocolate is one of the highest and powerful antioxidants called flavonoids and catechins.

Heart Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate:

Just a small bar of dark chocolate every day can help keep the heart and cardiovascular system running well. Heart health benefits of dark chocolate are:

  • Lowers blood pressure: Studies have shown that consuming a small bar of dark chocolate everyday can reduce blood pressure in individuals with high blood pressure. This is due to the flavonoids present in them, which helps relax blood pressure through the production of nitric oxide.
  • Lowers cholesterol levels: Dark chocolate has also been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) by up to 10 percent. It helps keep the cholesterol from gathering in blood vessels and reduces the risk of blood clots.
  • Reduces the risk of heart attacks: by preventing blood clots. Also, blood platelets clump together more slowly in chocolate eaters, study says.

Dark chocolate, apart from being tasty and healthy heart-friendly; also has been proven to:

  •   Stimulate ‘endorphine’ secretion, which gives a feeling of pleasure;
  •   Have anti-depressant properties as it contains ‘serotonin’.

OTHER FINDINGS:

  • It protects against blood inflammation.
  • It may prevent cancer: Cocoa contains a compound called ‘pentameric procyanidin’ or ‘pentamer’, which disrupts cancer cells’ ability to spread.
  • It reduces the risk of diabetes: It was found that eating chocolate increases insulin sensitivity, which reduces the risk of diabetes.
  • It is good for your skin: Remember that acne infomercial from the 90s which said that chocolates cause pimples? Well not only does it not cause breakouts, it’s actually good for your skin! Flavonoids found in dark chocolate protect women’s skin from the sun’s UV rays, according to German scientists. But that doesn’t mean you can skip the sunscreen.
  • It can control coughs:  Fed up of having bitter cough syrups for getting relief from cough? No problem! Presenting, the most delicious way to kick your cough- dark chocolate. One of the sweet’s chemical components, theobromine, seems to reduce the activity of the ‘vagus nerve’, the part of the brain that triggers coughing fits.
  • It strengthens your brain: Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University found that dark chocolate shields cells in your brain, and accordingly protects it from damage caused by stroke. This is due to Epicatechin, a compound found in chocolate.
  • It makes you live longer: Harvard researchers found that eating chocolate actually adds two years to your life expectancy! Jeanne Louise Calment lived to the age of 122—the oldest anyone has ever lived. She ate two and a half pounds of dark chocolate per week.

Interestingly enough, there also have been studies which claim that dark chocolate helps you with math! British psychologists found that ‘flavanols’ (a class of flavonoids, which are found in dark chocolate) helped people with their mental math. Study subjects 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,” the British Telegraph reported.

But while the researchers found a positive effect of eating the dark chocolate in the study, they cautioned that chocolate is also high in saturated fat and calories, and must therefore be eaten in moderation.
So here are some tips to keep in mind in order to avail these health benefits:

  • Purchase chocolates that have at least 70% cocoa (see the package).
  • Balance the Calories: This information doesn’t mean that you should eat a pound of chocolate a day. Chocolate is still a high-calorie, high-fat food. One bar of dark chocolate has around 400 calories. If you eat half a bar of chocolate a day, you must balance those 200 calories by eating less of something else or by exercising; to keep your total intake of calories the same.

So, next time you have a craving and want to grab a bar of chocolate; go ahead and indulge yourself in the sinful taste of yum dark chocolate without thinking twice about your health and body weight! Remember-you don’t just buy a dark chocolate, you EARN it! That’s because you’re worth it! 😉

–Sakshi Raina
TYBMM Journalism
Sophia College

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