Eating Chocolate can be good for you!

Great news for chocolate lovers!   The next time you raid the kitchen cupboards for a few squares of chocolate, there’s no need to feel quite so guilty about it. A new study suggests eating chocolate (in moderation, of course) could have some surprisingly positive effects on both your mental and physical wellbeing.

Dark chocolate is loaded with nutrients that can positively affect your health.  Made from the seed of the cocoa tree, it is one of the best sources of antioxidants on the planet.  Studies show that dark chocolate (not the sugary milk chocolate type…) could improve your health and lower the risk of heart disease.

5 health benefits of chocolate

  1. That feel-good feeling

Chocolates in general can stimulate dopamine, which is the feel-good chemical in our brain. This is the reason why we naturally feel happy in an instant after taking a bite of chocolate.  The feelings you get when you eat chocolate are similar to those we experience when we fall in love!

However it’s important to opt for dark chocolate with a high cocoa solid content, where possible, as it offers more health benefits than milk chocolate, it is also lower in fat and contains antioxidants which help  antioxidants.

  1. Chocolate can help your heart health and arteries

Eating chocolate can lower blood pressure, thin the blood (reducing stroke risk) and comes with anti-inflammatory benefits, thanks to a high content of chemicals called flavonoids.

Flavonoids in chocolate also stimulate the lining of arteries, to produce nitric oxide.  One of the functions of nitric oxide is to send signals to the arteries to relax, which lowers the resistance to blood flow and therefore reduces blood pressure.

Research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, which analysed more than 330,000 participants, found that eating chocolate more than once a week reduced the risk of developing coronary heart disease by 8%, when compared to those who indulged less often.

  1. It can boost your brainpower

A chemical called epicatechin – found in cocoa and green tea – may also help protect the brain against Alzheimer’s disease.

Eating too much sugary or fatty food can contribute to obesity and other health problems, but the good news for chocolate lovers is that small amounts can also have some health benefits so there’s no need to feel guilty about indulging your cravings now and then, as long as it’s part of a well-balanced diet.

  1. Chocolate is loaded with antioxidants

Dark chocolate can be a brilliant source of disease-fighting antioxidants that can help prevent oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Oxidative stress can inflict damage on cells and tissues in the body, which can cause aging and contribute to health problems like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Dark varieties of chocolate also contain less sugar than commercial milk chocolate too, so it’s healthier to opt for a bar with a higher cocoa content.

  1. It may be able to reduce stress

There may be a reason why you fancy treating yourself to a chocolate bar after a stressful day at work. Chocolate can be a source of tryptophan, an amino acid precursor to the mood-boosting endorphin serotonin, which helps reduce stress in the body.

So, it may sound too good to be true, but a couple of squares of chocolate in the evening may actually benefit your health. That said, it’s important to choose chocolate bars wisely, and go for those that have a high flavanol content. As a general rule of thumb, opt for dark varieties with a 70% cocoa content or higher – the less processed, the better.