Could chocolate really be friend rather than foe?

If you’re partial to a spot of chocolate from time to time, don’t give yourself too much of a hard time. Studies have shown that chocolate, while definitely still a treat, actually has some health benefits.

Sound too good to be true? Then read on.

 

Antioxidant powerhouse

Antioxidants are good news for our bodies. So you’ll be pleased to hear that cocoa and dark chocolate are rich in a group of antioxidants commonly known as flavanols. One type of flavonoid, called anthocyanidin, is especially high in cacao beans, along with other compounds called epicatechins.

So what do these flavanols actually do? Emerging research shows they may promote blood flow to the brain, keep arteries elastic, reduce inflammation and keep your blood flowing freely.

But remember, the higher the cacao content the better – it means more antioxidants and less sugar and fat!

 

Cardiovascular benefits

Tucking into a choccie treat could help reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels according to a study in The Journal of Nutrition.

Researchers found that chocolate bars containing plant sterols (PS) and cocoa flavanols (CF) actually supported cardiovascular healthy by lowering cholesterol and improving blood pressure.

Furthermore, research published in The BMJ suggests that consuming the food could help lower the risk of developing heart disease by a third.

An additional Canadian study of 44,489 people found that those who ate chocolate were 22% less likely to suffer a stroke than those who didn’t. Those who regularly consumed chocolate and did have a stroke were 46% less likely to die.

Yet another study, published in the journal Heart in 2015, tracked the impact of diet on the long-term health of 25,000 men and women. The findings? That eating up to 100 grams of chocolate each day may be linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.

 

Boosting those little grey cells

Drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day could help keep the brain healthy and reduce memory decline in older people, according to scientists at Harvard Medical School.

They found that the drink helped improve blood flow to parts of the brain, providing the energy required to complete the necessary tasks.

In another 2014 study, researchers discovered that a cocoa extract known as lavado could slowing the symptoms of Alzheimers disease.

 

Improving performance in fitness training

Can you believe that there is research out there to suggest that chocolate could actually enhance your physical performance during a workout?

A recent study found cyclists could effectively exercise for longer after eating dark chocolate.

Dark chocolate is known to increase nitric oxide, much like beetroot, and this is thought to be behind the results.

However, the optimal level of flavanols in dark chocolate for boosting athletic performance has yet to be established and it’s not yet clear whether the boost takes place on the same day as eating it or over a longer period of time.

 

Do you indulge from time to time?

About Anne Majumdar

Journo turned fitness professional, passionate about helping people to live a healthier and happier life! A long way from London, I now call Sydney home.

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