Health Benefits of Chocolate

A piece of chocolate a day keeping the doctor away? It may not be as absurd as it sounds

When one imaginesChoco_Featured the kind of indulgences that quickly derail diets, chocolate is certainly one of the first things to come to mind. It may come as something of a surprise, however, to learn that there are actually a number of health benefits to eating chocolate.

Before you go grab a whole handful of chocolate candies, it is important to understand the caveats. If you eat chocolate with reckless abandon, you will gain unwanted weight. Commercial chocolate products are high in added fat and refined sugar, which adds up to unnecessary calories. Eating chocolate to excess puts you at risk not only for weight gain, but also for high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. As such, you should always eat chocolate in moderation; using a calorie-counting app to monitor your intake will help prevent adding on extra pounds.

It is also important to note that not all chocolate is created equal. Of all varieties of chocolate, dark chocolate, cacao and cocoa are considered by several experts to have the most beneficial qualities. According to Scientific American, a 2012 review of 20 different studies found that daily, moderated consumption of dark chocolate or cocoa resulted in an average drop of two to three points in blood pressure readings over a period of time.

To be sure that you are getting the proper benefits, Mary Engler, Ph.D., a professor of physiological nursing at the University of California at San Francisco, recommends to Women’s Health that, in a day, you eat no more than seven ounces of chocolate that consists of no less than 70 percent cacao or cocoa.

Just what are those benefits, though?

Antioxidants
According to WebMD, if a chocolate product contains a sizable amount of nonfat cocoa solids, then it tends to have a high level of antioxidants. Dark chocolate in particular contains a great deal of antioxidants, which help rid your body of cell-damaging free radicals. Steady consumption of antioxidant-rich foods is associated with a lowered risk of cancer and a slowing of the aging process.

Reduced heart attack risk
The presence of flavanols in cocoa not only introduces antioxidants into the body, but the flavanols are also the ingredient best associated with lowered blood pressure and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. According to Diane Becker, M.P.H., Sc.D., a researcher at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, daily consumption of flavanol-rich dark chocolate can reduce the risk of heart attack by up to 50 percent due to its connection with slowing clotting in blood vessels.

Weight loss
Overconsuming chocolate will lead to gaining unnecessary weight, but according to the University of Copenhagen, tempered chocolate intake can actually help you shed pounds. The research also showed that eating a small amount of dark chocolate on a daily basis helps curb your appetite for other sweets and fatty foods. By indulging your sweet tooth within reason, you will better overcome the mental hurdle that comes with cutting junk foods out of your diet.

Rich in essential vitamins and minerals
Another added benefit of dark chocolate in particular is its high potassium, copper, magnesium and iron content. These vitamins and minerals are key components to ensuring your health: copper and potassium are useful in lowering your risk of stroke and heart disease; iron helps prevent anemia; and magnesium fights high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

Again, it should be noted that chocolate will only prove beneficial for your health if you consume it in an appropriate fashion. If you are able to regulate your intake and limit it only to the purest chocolates possible, then you may find yourself benefitting in a number of surprising ways.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

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