Easter, the only day you can eat chocolate for breakfast!
My Easter just got happier. I love chocolate. With that in mind and Easter approaching, I thought I would research the benefits of eating chocolate so I would not have to feel guilty for indulging in an Easter egg or two.
Chocolate with a higher cocoa component is the secret to indulgence. There is a lot of evidence that dark chocolate containing 70% or higher levels of cocoa are beneficial to health. Also, dark chocolate contains less sugar and fat.
Dark chocolate is good for your heart, brain, mood and love life. The antioxidants, plant sterols and cocoa flavonols found in dark chocolate have been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes by lowering blood pressure, reducing 'bad' cholesterol and increasing 'good' cholesterol. In a Canadian study of 44 489 patients those eating two ounces (50 grams) of dark chocolate a week were 46% less likely to die from a stroke. Researchers have found that dark chocolate improves blood flow to the brain and reduces damage to nerve pathways in patients with Alzheimer's dementia. This has the potential to slow memory decline and may actually improve it.
Minerals such as iron, potassium, zinc and selenium are plentiful in dark chocolate. These are required for healthy growth and one study showed that eating one ounce (25 grams) a day during pregnancy might improve foetal growth and development.
Athletic performance may be enhanced by eating dark chocolate, which appears to boost oxygen availability. Cyclist who ate a small amount of chocolate before training used less oxygen when cycling at a moderate pace and covered more distance in 2 minute time trials. "
Cocoa has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. Insulin levels and sensitivity are reduced in diabetes. Therefore dark chocolate in small amounts may delay or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.
A small square of dark chocolate melted on the tongue 30 minutes before a meal can trigger hormones which make you feel full. This will prevent overeating and if you do the same after a meal it will reduce the urge to snack. So eating chocolate can actually help you lose weight! Providing, of course, it is only a small amount of dark chocolate.
And finally, as a lot of you already know, chocolate is an aphrodisiac. This is due to phenylethylamine (PEA) which is the same chemical the brain creates when you feel like you are falling in love. PEA also stimulates the release of feel good endorphins.
It would be irresponsible for me to write this article without a brief health warning. Chocolate, even dark, should be eaten in moderation. Chocolate high in sugar and fat will not give you any of the health benefits above and will rot your teeth. Some cocoa powders have high levels of cadmium and lead, which are toxic to kidneys and bones. The advice is to check the label to be sure of the nutrients. If your dog, which provides you with lots of health benefits, eats dark chocolate it can be poisonous.
So enjoy your dark chocolate Easter egg guilt free and with the knowledge that your heart, brain, mood and love life are benefitting.
Be well, best wishes
Dr Angela Paddon