Chocolate is loved (or WORSHIPPED) universally, especially by women. It is routinely the comfort food us girls turn to when we’re stressed, sad, emotional, moody, angry, frustrated and exhausted – and who hasn’t relied on it to get through a bout of PMS?!
It obviously satisfies our emotional needs, but it is often demonized as a bad food and we are made to feel guilty when we indulge. But the right kind of chocolate is actually now being proven to be a health food!
Studies have already shown benefits to heart health, insulin control and cognitive decline. A major new study involving 18,000 people has been launched giving participants extracted flavonols from the cocoa bean in a pill to see if there are any health benefits without the sugar and fat in ordinary chocolate. Chocolate medicine?? Not as fun as eating the stuff but could prove to be good news for us dark addicts!
So chocolate can be really good for us! Of course I am not talking about your average Dairy Milk bar, which is loaded with sugar and heavily processed, which destroys the beneficial flavonols. The cocoa in dark chocolate (over 70%) and especially in raw cacao retains the flavonols that can help us in many ways;
1. HEART – there’s a reason we ‘heart’ chocolate – several studies have shown that it can lower blood pressure, dilate blood vessels, reduce ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and increase ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.
2. MOOD – it makes us happy (doh!) – it can reduce anxiety and increase endorphins, our feel good hormones.
3. BRAIN – it has been shown to stimulate the formation of new brain cells – helping with memory and concentration.
4. SKIN –the antioxidants can help protect against ageing and improve skin health.
5. STRESS – funny how we crave chocolate when we’re stressed? That could be because it has been shown to reduce stress hormones.
6. SEX DRIVE – the blood vessel dilation properties can help to boost sexual function and fertility.
7. WEIGHT LOSS – really?? One study found an association between higher chocolate consumption and lower central fatness in adolescents. This could be due to its effects on insulin regulation.
These benefits are limited to dark and raw chocolate due to their high cocoa content, and moderation is key! Many of the studies used around 40g per day, which equates to just under half a bar of Green & Blacks. However this amount would contain a fair amount of sugar, so the healthier option would be a raw chocolate bar made with coconut sugar, stevia or xylitol – sugars which don’t raise our insulin levels as much. My latest chocolate crush is OmBar.
Or try making your own with some raw cacao – loving the new ‘Super Cacao‘ from Aduna– it’s got 8 times the flavonols than regular cacao powder!
Check out this recipe for raw chocolate truffles. Enjoy…
- Fisher & Hollenberg (2005). Flavanols for cardiovascular health: The science behind the sweetness. Journal of Hypertension, 23:1453-1459
- Pase et al. (2013) Cocoa polyphenols enhance positive mood states but not cognitive performance: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. J Psychopharmacol. 27(5):451-8
- Nehlig, A. (2013). The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 75(3), 716-727
- Williams S et al (2009) Eating chocolate can significantly protect the skin from UV light. J Cosmet Dermatol. 8(3):169-73.
- Martin et al (2009) Metabolic effects of dark chocolate consumption on energy, gut microbiota, and stress-related metabolism in free-living subjects.J Proteome Res. 8(12):5568-79
- Taubert et al, (2007) Effects of low habitual cocoa intake on blood pressure and bioactive nitric oxide: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 4;298(1):49-60
- L Di Renzo et al (2013) Effects of dark chocolate in a population of Normal Weight Obese women: a pilot study. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci.17(16):2257-66.