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Nearly everyone loves chocolate. It’s delicious, and it’s the perfect treat after a long day. But did you know it’s also good for you (dark chocolate, that is)? It can improve your mood, improve the brain’s supply of blood, and lower your blood pressure (1, 2) I know, how can something that taste’s so great, be so good for you. Well, it’s just one of those things, we got lucky.

The mood improver

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Right after eating chocolate, tryptophan starts regulating serotonin production, and this helps invigorate us and improves our mood. Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine, which acts as an aphrodisiac (3). It’s been said that chocolate gives you a post eating ‘high’ and this is due to a rise in serotonin and endorphin levels. The increased blood supply to the brain means we are more mentally capable after eating chocolate. On top of that, dark chocolate helps regulate blood pressure so if you suffer from hypertension it’s a great alternative to sweets.

What’s in chocolate

A compound in chocolate, theobromine, helps to fight off a cough (4). And thanks to its ample amount of antioxidants and flavonoids, chocolate can also protect your skin from the sun. It also should be noted that there are ample essential nutrients, such as vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin E, as well as calcium, magnesium, potassium and more.

What Eating Chocolate Does to Your Body

Chocolate contains flavonoids, which have antioxidant activities, can fight free radicals, and help prevent cancer and heart disease (5) .The cocoa (active ingredient) can also reduce stress hormones in the body creating a more relaxed state (6).

Regular chocolate consumption

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Regular consumption of dark chocolate could aid in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease thanks to flavonoids and antioxidants (5).  The flavonoids and magnesium present in chocolate also have positive effects on our memory, so people over 70 would do their brain an excellent service by regularly eating chocolate. It’s even been claimed that dark chocolate can slow the aging process and babies whose mothers ate chocolate are less fearful and smile more (7).

Your stomach

Because chocolate also contains caffeine, it may also trigger irritable bowel symptoms along with GERD (8).  But because chocolate is high in fat, eating just a few pieces can make you feel fuller for longer. It’s also been linked to insulin sensitivity which may improve our ability to absorb sugars rather than store them as fat.

Your heart

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Dark chocolate is good for your heart. Studies have linked eating chocolate to a decrease in the bad form of cholesterol, LDL. One study (9) has also linked eating chocolate with anti-inflammatory compounds that arise due to fermentation in the stomach, which also contribute to heart health.

Other than some stomach upset in the very sensitive, chocolate provides a wide array of benefits for your body. Including improving your mood, reducing your blood pressure, combatting cardiovascular disease and strengthening our memory. So there’s no need to feel guilty if you indulge in a little bit of dark chocolate  (ideally with 70% cacao or higher) every now and then. But remember that milk chocolate contains far more sugar and way less cocoa, so its effects aren’t the same. And if you’re wondering how much chocolate is enough, most studies say that the beneficial effects of chocolate are in the range of 50 grams a week, or 6.7 grams a day (10).

Sources:

(1) Scholey et al. Consumption of cocoa flavanols results in acute improvements in mood and cognitive performance during sustained mental effort. Journal of Psychopharmacology. 2010, 24(10): 1505-1514. http://jop.sagepub.com/content/early/2009/11/26/0269881109106923.abstract. Accessed Dec 2, 2016.
(2) Grassi et al. Short-term administration of dark chocolate is followed by a significant increase in insulin sensitivity and a decrease in blood pressure in healthy persons. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2005, 81(3): 611-614.  http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/81/3/611.short. Accessed Dec 2, 2016.
(3) Afoawka. Cocoa and chocolate consumption- Are there aphrodisiac and other benefits for human health? South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2008, 21(3): 107-113. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/16070658.2008.11734163. Accessed Dec 2, 2016.
(4) Massot-Cladera et al. Impact of cocoa polyphenol extracts on the immune system and microbiota in two strains of young rats. The British Journal of Nutrition. 2014, 112 (12): 1944-1954. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25345541. Accessed Dec 2, 2016.
(5) Yao et al. Flavonoids in food and their health benefits. Plant foods for human nutrition. 2004, 59(3): 113-122. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15678717. Accessed Dec 2, 2016.
(6) Parker, Gordon. Mood state effects of chocolate. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2006, 92(2-3): 149-159.http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S016503270600084X. Accessed Dec 2, 2016.
(7) Raikkonen et al. Sweet babies: chocolate consumption during pregnancy and infant temperament at six months. Early Human Development. 2004, 76: 139-145. https://www.inf.utfsm.cl/~ydossow/papers/chocolate.pdf. Accessed Dec 2, 2016.
(8) Science Daily. Study Offers Hope for Chocolate-Loving Reflux Disease Sufferers. Science Daily. Published May 23, 2001. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/05/010523072217.htm. Accessed Dec 2, 2016.(9) Finley et al. Chocolate, the digestive tract and diabetes. School of Nutrition and Food Sciences, Louisiana State University. Baton Rouge: 2015. https://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=Z6SpCQAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA103&dq=finley+chocolate+gut+bacteria&ots=hBtHmpLJTj&sig=VcwwsdaO0a8YLyJDnyEmxmgPwXc#v=onepage&q&f=false. Accessed Dec 2, 2016.
(10) Dr. Mercola. How much Chocolate Should You Eat? Dr. Mercola. Published October 9, 2008. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2008/10/09/how-much-chocolate-should-you-eat.aspx. Accessed Dec 2, 2016.

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