Next time you reach for a chocolate bar when you’re stressed forget about the guilt and enjoy it. It turns out that chocolate is actually good for you. That doesn’t mean you can eat chocolate to your heart’s content since it does have extra calories, but eating equal to one square of a dark healthy chocolate bar daily can give you a lot of benefits.
How Chocolate is Good For You
Cocoa beans and some cocoa powder has Phenylethylamine or PEA which comes from the amino acid phenylalanine. PEA occurs naturally in the body and aids with energy, mood, feelings of well-being and pleasure, attention, and mental acuity. PEA triggers hormones like dopamine and norepinephrine that elevate feelings of pleasure. Some research indicates that PEA stimulates the same feelings we get from falling in love. PEA can also be found in cheddar cheese and AFA bluegreen algae or in supplement form. Getting Phenylethylamine from supplements has been reported to have more consistent benefits and can help lower stress, boost mood and boost metabolism for fat burning.
According to experts like Mauro Serafini, PhD, from the National Institute for Food and Nutrition Research in Rome, dark chocolate has antioxidants that help fight free radical damage. Free radicals are molecules in cells that weaken to the point that they lose an electron. This weakness results from things such as toxins in the body, exposure to UV rays, chlorinated water, pollution, and overcooked, fried and processed foods. These free radicals then take electrons from other molecules and create more free radicals causing damage in the body, including cells, enzymes, and DNA. This shows up in the body in ways like pain, inflammation, and chronic diseases such as heart disease. Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals before they cause cell damage by replacing the missing electron of free radicals. Dark chocolate has flavonoids, a type of antioxidant, that helps fight off free radicals and the effects of inflammation and the resulting diseases. These antioxidants also help protect skin and give protection from skin damaging UV rays from the sun.
Dark chocolate is also a rich source of fiber which according to Yale University’s Prevention Research Center’s director, Dr. David Katz, can help make you feel full and not eat as much. So while you may think chocolate should be banned from your weight loss plan, it actually may help you lose weight by keeping you from seeking out less healthy snacks between meals.
Heart Healthy Chocolate
Antioxidants help fight off the damage from free radicals that can lead to heart disease, but there are other benefits for the cardiovascular system that healthy chocolate can provide. Research from 2011 done in Sweden found that women eating more than 45 grams a week were at 20 percent less risk of stroke, than those eating less than 9 grams. Eating chocolate with its cocoa phenols regularly has also been found to reduce blood pressure levels and LDL cholesterol levels. And according to Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald cocoa works much like aspirin in thinning blood and protecting from blood clots.
Alternative to the Chocolate Bar
If you have a good quality unsweetened cocoa powder you can also get your chocolate benefits from drinking chocolate like they do in Europe. Just add nonfat milk, sugar or natural sweetener and cornstarch together in a pan and cook while stirring with a whisk until it boils.
Forget the bad things you’ve heard over the years about chocolate and let yourself enjoy a square daily. About 6 grams of chocolate a day on a regular basis will lift you up, and give you all the health benefits we’ve talked about here. The darker the chocolate the better and 70% or more cocoa content is optimal. What a great way to treat yourself and get an extra nutritional bang.
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