When you hear terms like “death by chocolate,” or “sinful chocolate glaze,” the message being sent is pretty clear: chocolate must be terrible for you. But is this true? Must all exciting or rich foods be relegated to the junk food category, or is there any wiggle room here?
It turns out that there are some surprising benefits to indulging that sweet tooth now and then. Now, of course, not all chocolate is made the same way, and some varieties have much more sugar or artificial ingredients than others, but real cocoa is still a pretty amazing food. Here’s why…
Chocolate Can Lower Cholesterol
People who eat chocolate regularly are shown to have lower levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol than those who do not. This may be due to the natural antioxidants found in chocolate, or it could be that eating a bit of chocolate is extremely satisfying, and prevents mindless “grazing” on junk foods. Either way, chocolate can be a heart healthy food!
Chocolate Increases Blood Flow
Chocolate has some blood thinning properties, which can be helpful for those concerned about blood clots, high blood pressure, or stroke. Cocoa can inhibit overactive platelets (the cells that cause blood to clot), and work in much the same way that Aspirin does. Always check with your doctor if you are on a strict diet, or on different medications.
Chocolate May Improve Memory
As stated above, cocoa can help increase blood flow, and that includes blood flow to the brain. Many studies find that those who eat chocolate tend to perform better on tests, and are able to recall more information. Chocolate also helps people feel a little more awake and alert. When you are paying closer attention, your brain can form better memories.
Chocolate is Good For Your Skin
Yes, it’s a total myth that chocolate causes pimples. The antioxidants present in cocoa can aid skin health by providing a slight increase in natural UV resistance, which in turn helps reduce the risk of sun damage. Don’t go skipping the sunscreen though! Chocolate is great, but it’s not miraculous.
Chocolate May be Good During Pregnancy
Always check with your doctor before making changes to your diet while pregnant, but maybe mention this study when you do: Women who ate 30 grams of chocolate a day during pregnancy experienced better rates of fetal growth and development. We are literally born loving chocolate!
Chocolate Makes You Happy
Let’s not underestimate the health benefits of a good mood! Separating foods into “good” and “bad” categories can cause undue stress and even depression when you begin to feel deprived. It’s much healthier for your mental state to simply enjoy chocolate in moderation when cravings hit, than to try to deny yourself a simple pleasure. Chocolate makes us happy, so go ahead and have a piece, then move on with your day.
Heading out to the store already? Be sure to look for chocolate that offers a higher cacao content (70% or more), and that uses natural ingredients. You can reap the health benefits from this rich and delicious food, while also treating yourself to something truly delicious.