Chocolate – it needs no introduction.
We all love it, we all eat it, and we all crave it. And, according to mounting research, it could be providing more health benefits than we think.
Chocolate = Intelligence
Its 11pm and you have just started the 3000 word essay, or that proposal your boss asked you for, due at 9am the following morning. What is the first thing you reach for (after the tequila) chocolate!
Could this sweet indulgence be helping in more ways than one?
The answer, according to a researcher at the University of Nottingham, is yes. According to a study conducted in 2007, drinking cocoa, the primary ingredient in chocolate and rich in flavanols, boosts blood flow to key parts of the brain for up to three hours, which could improve short-term performance and alertness.
Further, a study conducted at Oxford University looked at chocolate's long-term effects on the brain by observing the diets of more than 2,000 people over age 70. It was found that those who consumed flavanol-rich chocolate, wine or tea scored significantly higher on cognitive tests than those who didn't. We are thinking that Nestle should change their slogan to – “Have a study break, have a Kit-Kat”.
Not only is this delicious treat full of flavour, its full of flavonoids: antioxidant compounds that increase the flexibility of veins and arteries.
A 9 year Swedish study of more than 31,000 women, found that those who ate one or two servings of dark chocolate each week cut their risk for heart failure by as much as a third.
Further, researchers recently looked at long-term health data on nearly 21,000 adults in England and found that participants who consumes the most chocolate were 11% less likely to have a heart attack or stroke, and 25% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.
Reasearch has shown that the flavonols in dark chocolate can protect against sun-induced damage, improve blood flow to the skin and increase skin hydration.
Yet another reason to indulge on a square or two..or three.. or four.
Winter Cough, Be Gone!
If you live in the Northern hemisphere, then you would be well aware that winter has finally hit, and so have the seasonal flus, colds and coughs.
Before you hit the drugstore to stock up, a much more palatable cure may be already hiding in your refrigerator.
Theobromine, an ingredient found in chocolate, appears to reduce activity of the vagus nerve, a component of the brain responsible for the cough reflex. One study conducted by the Imperial College London in 2004, found that chocolate alleviated coughs almost as well as codeine.
No convincing needed here - we will happily swap the syrup for snickers!
Stress Less, Indulge More
That stress-induced chocolate binge may be more helpful than you think!
According to a recent study in Switzerland, eating approximately 43g (the equivalent of around four squares of dark chocolate), each day for two weeks reduced levels of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone.
The study also saw a decrease in Catecholamine, the ‘fight-or’flight’ hormones produced in highly stressed people.
Don't Be So Sensitive - Dark Chocolate
According to researchers in Italy, chocolate may increase insulin sensitivity, which is particularly important in the development of Diabetes.
In the study conducted over a two-week period, 15 people were given either three ounces of dark chocolate, or three ounces of white chocolate, which contains no flavnol phytochemicals and it was found that insulin resistance was significantly lowered in those who ate dark chocolate.
Chocolate Makes You Happy (Well Duh!)
Okay so this is a no-brainer, however, there is science behind the smile.
Chocolate stimulates the release of endorphins, neurotransmitters responsible for the feelings of pleasure and happiness often felt after a workout, when laughing or during sexual intercourse. Another bonus of this sweet treat is the presence of Tryptophan, an essential amino acid needed by the brain to produce serotonin, also known as the ‘happy chemical’.
So now there are seven more reasons to treat your sweet tooth. However, this is not license to go on an all-out chocolate binge. It is important to remember that balance is key, and everything we eat should be done so in moderation.
Want some tips to help ease your snacking addition? Try THESE