Top 10 Reasons Chocolate Is Good For You
1 It may help lower blood pressure
Flavanols found in cocoa beans aid production of nitric oxide, which stimulates blood vessels to dilate.
One analysis of 850 mainly healthy participants found that flavanol-rich chocolate and cocoa products had a small but statistically significant effect in lowering blood pressure in the short term.
Processing can lower flavonol content, so for best effect try a traditional cocoa drink made with “non-alkalised” beans (£3.50 for 125g from www.chocacao.co.uk)
2 It might help to keep you smart
A nice mug of cocoa might also help an ageing brain, a recent study in the journal Hypertension found. Elderly participants who received high flavonol chocolate drinks had improved mental performance after eight weeks.
3 It doesn’t give you spots after all
“This is a myth”, says Elphee.
“No one food that can cause acne, though there is some evidence that an unhealthy diet in general – high in refined carbohydrates, low in fruit and vegetables – may be a factor.”
Interestingly, both dark and milk chocolate have a relatively low glycaemic index, having a more favourable effect on blood sugar and insulin – and, potentially, your skin – than other sweet foods like sugary drinks or marshmallows.
4 It could help protect against heart attacks and strokes
Chocolate is high in saturated fat, but the particular type – stearic acid – predominant in cocoa butter does not raise cholesterol like other saturates.
Research at Cambridge University found that people consuming the most chocolate had a 37% lower risk of heart disease and a 29% lower risk of stroke than those who consumed less chocolate.
However, this “high” intake only amounted to 63g a week, and study author Dr Oscar Franco, urges: “Chocolate may be beneficial, but it should be eaten in a moderate way, not in large quantities and not in binges.”
5 It’s good for bones
This is where the sweeter, less cocoa-rich bars actually score better, as they count as a dairy-rich food that helps keep your bones strong.
A small (50g) bar of white chocolate contains one sixth of the recommended daily allowance of calcium, and the same size bar of milk chocolate contains a little less.
6 It may fight PMS
“Chocolate contains magnesium, which can help alleviate cramps and increase energy,” says clinical therapist Elisabeth Morray, a consultant for Kotex (www.ubykotex.com).
As usual, however, it’s important not to overindulge. “The best way to take advantage of its benefits is to limit yourself to a small amount – a couple of pieces,” says Elisabeth.
7 It could boost levels of cancer protection
Spanish researchers studying rodents fed a diet containing 12% cocoa, found that it protected against the development of colon cancer.
That’s a lot of cocoa and it was an animal study, but scientists think that there could be similar protective qualities in humans.
“In moderation, cocoa products may offer strong antioxidant effects in combination with a pleasurable eating experience,” says Dr Gertraud Maskarinec, of the University of Hawaii’s Cancer Research Centre.
To maximise the potential cancer-protective effect, try a bar of Choxi+ chocolate, which is especially antioxidant-rich (£7.99 for 4x75g bars from www.prestat.co.uk)
8 It could help with chronic fatigue
A small study of 10 chronic fatigue patients carried out at Hull York Medical School, found that those given 45g of 85% cocoa chocolate daily reported less fatigue, anxiety and depression than those given placebo chocolate with low antioxidants.
The researchers say larger studies are needed to confirm the findings.
9 It doesn’t (necessarily) make you fat
Strangely (and wonderfully), people who eat chocolate on a regular basis are, on average, actually thinner that those who don’t, an American study reported earlier this year.
How so? Nobody quite knows, but it might be that people who eat chocolate as part of a balanced diet are healthier than those who have occasional big chocolate binges.
Unfortunately though, you can’t get round the fact there’s a whopping 270 plus calories in a titchy 50g bar. Hmmm.
10…And it might even get you in the mood to have sex!
An intriguing Italian study linked higher chocolate consumption with more action in the bedroom.
However, when the researchers analysed the results more closely it was found that it was younger age, rather than chocolate, that was the more pertinent factor linked with having more sex.