Many people may not know it, but there are actually numerous health benefits of chocolate. The real, unadulterated form of chocolate, derived from the Theobroma cacao tree, is a heaven-sent super food that can keep us healthy even as we indulge in its delectable taste. Many overly processed chocolates are full of refined sugar and saturated fatty acids, but the real stuff is packed full of plant derived flavanols, full of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory constituents and health-boosting ingredients that do all sorts of amazing things for our bodies and minds.
Take for example, the following 10 benefits to heart:
- In a 9-year study conducted by the Swedes, it was found that people who consumed chocolate just 1 to 3 times per month had a 26% lower risk of developing heart failure. If you normally give your sweetheart chocolate, consider making it dark chocolate to provide an extra bit of love to the heart muscle.
- A meta-analysis published recently in Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that those who consume chocolate experience a reduction in blood pressure.
- Chocolate increases communication between opiate receptors in the brain as well as supports the production of dopamine, two hormones that increase happiness and contribute to feelings of elation.
- Real chocolate, or cocoa, is associated with decreased low-density lipoprotein levels and increased high-density lipoprotein levels. These are important for carrying cholesterol to the liver.
- Chocolate has more than 300 identifiable chemical compounds that can provide amazing health benefits for the whole body.
- Eating chocolate releases the same hormones that our bodies make when we are in love: Phenylethylamine (PEAs).
- Raw cacao contains N-acylethanolamines that are believed to temporarily increase the levels of anandamide in the brain and enzyme inhibitors that slow its breakdown. This means we feel more relaxed when we eat chocolate.
- Eating chocolate increases our endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers.
- Raw cacao consumption can help with weight loss as it eradicates sweet cravings. The abundance of antioxidants can also help keep our metabolism running smoothly. An article in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry says you can enjoy cacao several times a week to boost weight loss.
- Cacao can be enjoyed in raw form as a powder, as cacao nibs, or as a dark chocolate bar minus the refined sugar and unhealthy fats. You can mix a little cacao with honey and cinnamon over low heat on the stove for a delicious sweet treat, with the combined health benefits of all three foods for a vitamin-packed dessert.
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.