It was only a matter of time before researchers discovered what many chocoholics already knew- chocolate makes you happy! And let’s be honest, happy people are healthy people. But what our endorphins have been telling us for decades, researchers are now confirming in their labs. Chocolate is one sweet treat that can have a positive effect on our bodies.
A daily dose of chocolate might be just what the doctor should order according to a recent study published in CNN health. The lead author of the study, Brian Buijsse, a nutritional epidemiologist at the German Institute of Human Nutrition, in Nuthetal, Germany, studied close to 20,000 people over the span of approximately eight years. In the study, Buijsse surveyed each participant in regards to their chocolate consumption and general diet. He also noted if and when each participant had a stroke or heart attack. His findings should be celebrated by chocoholics everywhere. He found that participants that had a regular intake of chocolate (approximately one bar a week) were 27% less likely to have a stroke and 48% less likely to have a heart attack. However, his findings have a golden rule- the darker the chocolate, the more benefits to the consumer. Dark chocolate has more flavonols which is a key antioxidant that helps reduce blood pressure. Dr. Buijsse’s prognosis: “I usually recommend less than one ounce of dark chocolate a day — a tiny square — for heart health,” he adds. “The chocolate should be at least 70 percent cocoa with limited added sugar.”
Yes, chocolate helps with brain health too! Studies done courtesy of researchers at the University of L’Aquila in Italy recently evaluated the daily cocoa intake of 90 study participants over the age of 65. All of these patients had been inflicted with mild cognitive impairment which could eventually lead to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. In only eight weeks the study found that participants ingesting larger amounts of cocoa had significantly higher cognitive scores then their non-chocolate eating counterparts. Again, we have flavonols to thank for this significant health news.
Chocolate can also keep the largest organ in your body a little bit healthier and (for those of us who are a tad bit vain) good-looking as well. Chocolate releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy, into the bloodstream. Stress reduction helps a variety of medical conditions including the breakdown of collagen in the face. Say goodbye to those wrinkles! Chocolate with 70 percent cocoa can also help your skin fight against UV damage and free radicals that cause sun spots.
Inspired to buy a chocolate bar in the check-out isle? Before blissfully biting into the rich and creamy treat remember: the health benefits from chocolate appear in darker varieties. Turn over the bar. If the first two ingredients are milk and sugar it is not very likely that you will score brighter skin or a healthier heart. Be a conscious shopper, watch your portions, and don’t feel so guilty with your small indulgence!