Chocolate is typically considered a sugary treat. However, there are new studies that show evidence that chocolate may actually be beneficial for our health, and not as bad for us as we may have previously thought. Chocolate comes from a plant, the bean of the cacao tree to be exact, and it contains a high concentration of antioxidant compounds called flavonoids. These flavonoids are more predominantly found in dark chocolate as opposed to milk chocolate because the benefits tend to be lost in the process of making milk chocolate, and its fat and sugar contents. However, if you choose to eat dark chocolate, these are some of the benefits that you will reap from them.

  • It is an antioxidant powerhouse.

Studies from Penn State University found that people who ate a diet rich in cocoa and dark chocolate had lower oxidation levels of bad LDL cholesterol, high blood antioxidant levels, and 4% higher levels of good HDL cholesterol. The higher the cocoa content, the more antioxidants the chocolate will contain.

  • Helps prevent heart disease and reduces risk of stroke.

One study of 470 elderly men over a 15 year period found that the men who consumed the most chocolate were 50 percent less likely to die of a heart attack, and in another study of nearly 5,000 men and women, those who ate chocolate at least five times a week were 57 percent less likely to be diagnosed with heart disease.

A study of over 30,000 women between the ages of 49 and 83 found that the more chocolate a women ate, the less likely she would be to suffer a stroke.

  • Reduces stress levels.

The magnesium found in chocolate affects our mood. People often report when eating chocolate that their mood is elevated, and they feel better. This elevation in mood is temporary though, and when the effect wears off, subjects again revert to their previous state and mind.

  • Helps keep our skin beautiful.

The antioxidants in chocolate reduce skin damage that can be caused by sun, pollution and alcohol. The Flavanols in the cocoa also protects skin from UV rays, as suggested in a recent study from the Journal of Nutrition.

  • Keeps us slim.

It has been shown that chocolate can increase metabolism and states that those who ate chocolate frequently, up to twice a week, had a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who didn’t.

Additional health benefits include:

  • Boosts brain function.
  • Slows signs of ageing.
  • Fights the cold.
  • Lowers blood pressure.
  • Improves indigestion.
  • Helps people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
  • Improves sexual desire
  • Deters atherosclerosis.

Chocolate has been proven to provide an array of health benefits, however not all chocolate will be the same. Studies has proved that dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao will be more beneficial than milk chocolate because milk chocolate has too much fat and sugar content. We have to be wary about buying chocolate with artificial sweeteners, or chocolate that has been made with alkaline or lists sugar as the top ingredient because the cacao present in those chocolate would be too few to present any health benefits. Also, choose dark chocolate that is organically certified to ensure that there are no harmful pesticide residues and limit the amount of chocolate you eat on daily basis preferably 1.5-3 ounces per serving. Processing cacao into chocolate diminishes its flavonoid content, and milk appears to inhibit its antioxidant effects. However, there are many types and brands of dark chocolate that are pure, and provide the cacao that is beneficial to our health.

So the next time you pick up a chocolate bar, don’t feel too guilty about it. It’s actually much healthier for you than you may think.

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Rhonda Donahue PhD. Author of “The Pollution Inside You!” & “New Zealand’s Natural Health Remedy”  Direct Line (714)863-5959   http://rhondadonahue.com/

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