The Easter Long Weekend is just around the corner and for many it is a time for reflection, and for many others It is also a great time to sample some good food, wine and chocolate with friends and family.
We all know that eating chocolate is bad for us right!! Well since its discovery thousands of years ago, chocolate has become many things to many people. The Mayan people crushed the seeds of the chocolate (cacao) tree and mixed them with spices to make a frothy beverage, which was consumed at social events and religious ceremonies. Chocolate was woven into many aspects of their culture—it appeared in much of their artwork and was even used as a method of currency.
Today, chocolate is used to satisfy a sweet tooth more than anything else. But recent research about the health benefits of chocolate may persuade you to explore the world of chocolate a little more.
The findings suggest that the consumption of chocolate may have many benefits:
1. High in antioxidants: Chocolate is high in flavonoids, an antioxidant in the polyphenol category. Antioxidants can help to prevent cell damage and have been linked to prevention of cancer and other degenerative diseases.
2. Helps with cholesterol: Scientists at Penn State (USA) found that dark chocolate and flavonoid-rich cocoa powder reduced LDL (“bad” cholesterol) oxidation.
3. Reduces inflammation: An Italian study showed that when volunteers ingested small amounts of dark chocolate, their levels of C-reactive protein (an inflammatory marker) decreased.
4. Lowers blood pressure: A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that dark chocolate had an effect on lowering blood pressure.
5. Helps with mood: Chocolate contains tryptophan, a precursor of serotonin, which can help with depression. Research also shows chocolate can increase dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine (PEA) known as the “love chemical.”
6. Improves blood flow: Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has shown that cocoa has anti-clotting, blood-thinning properties that work in a similar way as aspirin. Nobody is suggesting to replace your aspirin with chocolate, but the research is compelling.
7. It’s delicious! Research shows that enjoying food and life is beneficial for your health.
Which Chocolate Has the Most Health Benefits?
To get the health benefits of chocolate choose dark varieties. The compounds that benefit your health (antioxidants and phenols) are in the cocoa solids. The more cocoa solids your chocolate has, the darker the chocolate will appear. But you can’t rely on looks or marketing alone since any chocolate can be labelled “dark,” even if it doesn’t contain a high concentration of cocoa. The first ingredient on the label should be cocoa, chocolate, or cocoa liquor . Choose a product that contains at least 70 percent cocoa. This percentage should be listed on the label.
Avoid The Milky Varieties Most varieties of mass-marketed chocolate bars are made with milk, which gives the chocolate a creamy texture that most people enjoy. Unfortunately, this combination inhibits the absorption of the beneficial compounds in cocoa (as does drinking milk along with chocolate). In other words, if it contains milk (milk fat, lactose, whey and other milk derivatives), the chocolate no longer has health-enhancing benefits.
Now remember, everything is good in moderation so enjoy your chocolate in moderation this weekend and try to get out for some light exercise and take advantage of the predicted sunshine.
Have A Happy and Safe Easter,