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Chocoholics Unite!

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July 24, 2014

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Chocolate

I confess; I am a chocoholic (I also have a sweet tooth that I have to constantly curb).  However, I’ve decided that I can have my cake and eat it too (pardon the pun).  I will only buy plain dark chocolate to have around – I’m not trustworthy with even dark chocolate covered almonds.  There have been lots of recent studies done that show dark chocolate has health benefits but it should be 70% or higher dark chocolate.  It’s the raw ingredient – cacao – packed with healthy chemicals like flavonoids and theobromine, that is actually good for you and not all the other stuff that gets added like sugar, fat and additives which make it unhealthy.

Dark chocolate can take some getting used to and it may even taste bitter (that’s the cacao) or chalky, particularly when you get over 85% which pertains to the percentage of cacao.  It may take a little time to retrain your taste buds but start with a lower percentage and work your way up.

6 Benefits of Dark Chocolate

1.    Heart Health:  Studies have shown that about a square of dark chocolate a day lowered blood pressure and reduced risk of heart attack and stroke by 39 percent. This is due to the flavonoids, antioxidant compounds that increase the flexibility of veins and arteries.  Additional studies have found that eating dark chocolate helps decrease bad cholesterol while increasing good cholesterol.  It’s believed that the high polyphenol content (antioxidants) of cacao helps inhibit free radicals from causing cell membrane damage which can lead to heart disease.  The flavonoids are also thought to have a positive effect on lowering blood pressure.

2.    Weight Loss:  Researchers from the University of Copenhagen found that dark chocolate is far more filling, offering more of a feeling of satiety than its lighter-colored sibling. That is, dark chocolate lessens cravings for sweet, salty, and fatty foods.

3.    Fight Inflammation:  Dark chocolate is high in antioxidants.  In fact, cacao has more antioxidants than other well-known fruits like acai berries, pomegranate, cranberries and blueberries which are known for their anti-oxidative properties.  Antioxidants fight against free-radicals that cause cell damage inside your body, causing inflammation.  Some researchers have suggested that cacao beans have a 10% concentration of antioxidants, making them a very effective at fighting free radicals and preventing inflammation.

4.    Stress Buster:  Stress and its sneaky sidekick cortisol can wreak havoc on your body. Swiss scientists found that when very anxious people ate an ounce and a half of dark chocolate every day for two weeks, their stress hormone levels were significantly reduced and the metabolic effects of stress were partially mitigated.

5.    Mood Enhancer:  Ever wonder why you reach for the chocolate when you’re having a bad day?  Cacao beans help stimulate phenylethylamine (PEA), dopamine, and serotonin.  These are all neurotransmitters that increase feelings of happiness and well being.

6.    Diabetes Prevention:  Again, our hero – flavonoids – have been shown to help control insulin sensitivity.

So, next time you reach for a chocolate bar, don’t feel guilty about indulging in a treat.  Just make sure that you’re getting dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao, low in sugar and little additives as possible.  But keep in mind that it’s still a treat, so enjoy it in moderation.

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