It’s full of flavor, melts in your mouth, and it’s Willy Wonka's favorite kick. Chocolate [cacao] dates back to 350 B.C. in Mesoamerica and was believed to have aphrodisiac powers. After sugar was added in the 16th century, chocolate blew up on a global scale and the world was never the same.
What is it about chocolate that hooks us compared to any other sweet available? It's unique, rich, and has a sweet taste that appeals to almost everyone. It's no wonder chocolate consumption has been linked to diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Despite the negatives, moderate chocolate consumption can benefit us.
Chocolate gets a bad rap for its high sugar and fat content, but studies have concluded numerous health benefits such as lowering bad cholesterol levels, preventing cognitive decline, and reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems. It's important to note that these benefits derive from the cacao ingredient, so the more cacao, the better (The darker the chocolate, the higher concentration of cacao).
Let's dive into the main benefits of cacao.
Cholesterol. A study from The Journal of Nutrition concluded that chocolate consumption might help reduce low-intensity lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels (also known as bad cholesterol).
Heart Disease & Stroke. Research published in the BMJ showed that chocolate consumption could lower the risk of heart disease by a staggering 33%. Canadian scientists also concluded that eating 2 ounces of chocolate a week reduced the possibility of a stroke by an astounding 46%. These are crazy numbers if you hadn't noticed.
Cognitive Function. Scientists at Harvard Medical School suggested that drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day can reduce memory decline in older folks and keep the brain healthy. The reasoning behind this is that the hot chocolate improves blood flow, thus increasing memory capacity.
Performance. The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition concluded that consuming a bit of dark chocolate could improve oxygen availability during workouts. Researchers studied cyclists and found they required less oxygen when training. Scientists believe the ingredients in dark chocolate (flavonols such as epicatechins) enhance the release of nitric oxide in the body, which equates to better athletic performance.
There you have it. Go out and enjoy your favorite type of chocolate, but all in moderation.
“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.” -