The next time you eat a piece of chocolate, you may not have to feel so guilty about it. Despite its bad reputation for causing weight gain, a number of health benefits may be associated with this delicious treat.
Chocolate is made from tropical Theobroma cacao tree seeds. Its earliest use dates back to the Olmec civilization in Mesoamerica.
After the European discovery of the Americas, chocolate became very popular in the wider world, and its demand exploded. Chocolate has since become a popular food product that millions enjoy every day, thanks to its unique, rich, and sweet taste.
Fast facts on chocolate
• Chocolate consumption has long been associate disease , and hypertension .
• Chocolate is believed to contain high levels of a
• Some studies have suggested chocolate could l
• Chocolate contains a large number of calories .
• People who are seeking to lose or maintain weig
Benefits of chocolate
Chocolate might not be all bad.
Chocolate receives a lot of bad press because of its high fat and sugar content. Its consumption has been associated with acne, obesity, high blood pressure , coronary artery disease, and diabetes. Eating chocolate may have the following benefits:
- lowering cholesterol levels
- preventing cognitive decline
- reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems
In addition, chocolate bars do not contain only cocoa. The benefits and risks of any other ingredients, such as sugar and fat, need to be considered.
One study, published in The Journal of Nutrition , suggests that chocolate consumption might help
reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, also known as “bad cholesterol.”
The authors concluded: “Regular consumption of chocolate bars containing PS and CF, as part of a low-fat diet, may support cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol and improving blood pressure.”
2) Cognitive function
Scientists at Harvard Medical School have suggested that drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day could help keep the brain healthy and reduce memory decline in older people.
The researchers found that hot chocolate helped improve blood flow to parts of the brain where it was needed. Appetite , suggests eating chocolate at least once weekly could improve cognitive function.
3) Heart disease
Research published in The BMJ , suggests that consuming chocolate could help lower the risk of developing heart disease by one-third .
Based on their observations, the authors concluded that higher levels of chocolate consumption could be linked to a lower risk of cardiometabolic disorders.
They call for further experimental studies to confirm whether consuming chocolate is beneficial.
Canadian scientists, in a study involving 44,489 individuals, found that people who ate one serving of chocolate were 22 percent less likely to experience a stroke than those who did not. Also, those who had about two ounces of chocolate a week were 46 percent less likely to die from a stroke.
5) Fetal growth and development
Eating 30 g (about one ounce) of chocolate every day during pregnancy might benefit fetal growth and development, according to a study presented at the 2016 Pregnancy Meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine in Atlanta, GA.
6) Athletic performance
Chocolate may help athletes cover more distance while using less oxygen. The darker the chocolate, the higher the concentration of cocoa, and so, in theory, the higher the level of antioxidants there will be in the bar.
However, nutrients vary widely in commercially available chocolate bars, depending on the brand and type you choose. It is best to check the label if you want to be sure of the nutrients.
Risks and precautions
Chocolate may have health benefits, but it can have some negative effects, too.
Chocolate that is high in sugar can lead to tooth decay and weight gain.
Weight gain : Some studies suggest that chocolate consumption is linked to lower body mass index ( BMI ) and central body fat. However, chocolate can have a high calorie count due to its sugar and fat content. Anyone who is trying to slim down or maintain their weight should limit their chocolate consumption and check the label of their favorite product.
Sugar content : The high sugar content of most chocolate can also be a cause of tooth decay.
Migraine risk : Some people may experience an increase in migraines when eating chocolate regularly due to cocoa’s tyramine, histamine, and phenylalanine content. However, research is mixed.
Bone health: There is some evidence that chocolate might cause poor bone structure and
osteoporosis . The results of one study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition , found that older women who consumed chocolate every day had lower bone density and strength.
Heavy metals : Some cocoa powders, chocolate bars, and cacao nibs may contain high levels of cadmium and lead, which are toxic to the kidneys, bones, and other body tissues.
In 2017, Consumer Lab tested 43 chocolate products and found that nearly all cocoa powders contained more than 0.3 mcg cadmium per serving, the maximum amount recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
All in all, eating chocolate can have both health benefits and risks. As ever, moderation is key