Chocolate has, in recent years, been reported to have possible therapeutic properties and health benefits. Though research is still inconclusive, scientists theorize that chocolates contain chemicals that benefit blood vessels and increase beneficial antioxidants.
Why should I be aware of this?
- According to recent studies, chocolate may contain some healthful ingredients. Cocoa is full of flavonoids which have potentially beneficial effects on cardiovascular health, and may also act as healthy antioxidants. Flavonoids are thought to prevent free radicals damage, reduce platelet activation, affect the relaxation capabilities of blood vessels and the balance of hormone-like compounds which are likely to harm cardiovascular health.
- However the sugar and fat in chocolate to some extent counteract the health benefits of cocoa. The cocoa is put through processing to remove its pungent taste, which eliminates many of the flavonoids and along with it, some of the potential health benefits.
All about chocolate therapy
Though chocolate can’t be put in the same category as health food, it is not as bad as has been thought for years. Cocoa appears to have some mood elevating and antioxidant benefits. There are more health benefits in dark chocolate than milk chocolate. However, eating milk chocolate and drinking milk with dark chocolate can interfere with the health benefits of dark chocolate.
Benefits of antioxidants
Antioxidants build up the immune system, help prevent stroke, heart disease, and cancer, slow the aging process. A little portion of dark chocolate every day is said to be beneficial for high blood pressure. A small bar of chocolate can help keep your heart and cardiovascular system running smooth. Three ways it can keep your heart healthy are lowering your blood pressure, raising good cholesterol, and lowering bad cholesterol.
Fighting tooth decay
Apparently, cacao, which is the main source of cocoa and chocolate, contains antibacterial agents which fight tooth decay. Milk chocolate is high in sugar and causes tooth decay so again, go with the dark chocolate.
As an anti-inflammatory
Inflammation is present in chronic conditions like arthritis, and has even been associated with the development of some forms of cancer. Inflammation is normally caused by increased levels of leukotriene in the body. Studies have shown that the epicatechin in chocolate helps decrease levels of leukotriene. So chocolate may help reduce inflammation by reducing leukotriene.
During stress people have been turning to chocolate for hundreds of years to help themselves feel better. Now, at least one study—in the UK—has shown an association between eating chocolate and the improvement of mood. This effect was observed with the consumption of both chocolate and a non-chocolate caffeine-theobromine combination.
This study also found that cognitive functions—the ability to think and process information - also improved after the consumption of chocolate. Both milk and dark chocolate had this effect, but white chocolate did not, so it may be methylxanthine (which is not present in white chocolate) that is the contributor here.
- A cup of hot chocolate before a meal may decrease appetite, thereby helping cope with obesity.
- Men who eat chocolate are believed to live a year longer than those who don't.
- Chocolate contains serotinon, which acts as an anti-depressant. This is the reason for the feel-good factor in chocolate.
- Chocolate is also rich in magnesium and phosphorus which is good for strong bones and helps maintain muscle and nerve function.
- 100 grams of milk chocolate provides 550 calories while 100 grams of meat provides 170 calories.
- Cocoa fats are unsaturated fats which are easily digested.
- Chocolate contains theobromine, which acts like caffeine, and contains vitamins B, B2, PP and potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron.
- Cocoa contains 8 amino acids that are essential to our daily diet.
- The more cocoa-rich the chocolate the less sugar it contains. Chocolate with 70% cocoa could be called ‘diet chocolate’
- Potassium is important for balancing muscle health and for cardiac metabolism. The potassium present in chocolate makes an important contribution - especially for athletes.
- Magnesium regulates nervous and muscular excitability. A deficiency of magnesium promotes anxiety, fatigue, insomnia and constipation. The daily diet should contain 350 mg; 100 grams of chocolate contains 300 mg.
- Calcium is the most important mineral in the body. It plays a fundamental role in cellular function and the formation of bones and teeth.
- Phosphoros is another of the most important minerals needed by our bodies. Combined with calcium it is integral to the skeletal frame. The daily requirements are 800 mg in adults and 1400 mg in adolescents.
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