Chocolate – more is better!
Chocolate is good for the soul and research suggests, might also be great for the heart and brain. Everything from reducing the incidence of heart disease and high blood pressure to improving insulin sensitivity and keeping cholesterol in check. We also know from research that chocolate also has favorable effects on LDL (the so called “bad”) cholesterol.
As recently as last month, research from Melbourne, Australia, suggests that those with metabolic syndrome (excluding diabetics) will find consuming chocolate an “effective and cost effective strategy for the prevention of cardiovascular disease” .
In fact, data from published meta-analysis examining 2013 participants over a 10 year period found that for $40 AUD hypertension and other cardiovascular risk factors associated with the metabolic syndrome can be greatly reduced.
But before you dose yourself with a liberal serving of Cadbury’s or Wonka’s some words of caution are needed.
Keep in mind that science is good at answering one very specific question at a time. If we want to make broad recommendations of the health benefits of chocolate we need to look further.
What happens if you have normal blood pressure and are not pre-diabetic? Will chocolate be heart healthy for you?
Thankfully, chocolate is still your friend even if you do not fit the criteria of the people in the Australian study. And there is plenty of research to back this up.
The quality of the foods you consume is always important. We are looking for chocolate with as much of these compounds, flavonoids, as possible. Flavonoids are not the only beneficial compounds in coffee but they are the ones responsible for its cardiovascular protective effects. They are not exclusive to this treat either; you will also found them in green tea and coffee.
More is better!
If we are talking about cocoa, that is.
You want to reach for the more bitter kind of chocolate, nothing less than 60%. By doing this you are substantially reducing your sugar load of the food and at the same time end up ingesting greater concentrations of flavonoids.
The researchers suggest that by consuming a total of 100g of dark chocolate in small frequent amounts each week, will do the trick.
Chocolate improves memory and cognition.
The results of a recent study suggest that the flavanols found in chocolate can actually help to improve memory and cognition. Flavanols are antioxidants that occur naturally in some plants. Cocoa is one such plant that is rich in these antioxidants.
Published in Nature Neuroscience this study showed that chronic consumption of flavanols from cocoa had a positive impact on an area of the hippocampus that typically shows functional decline with age. It improved their ability to think and to remember things.
Before you grab that last Easter egg there are a few things you should be aware of.
The first of which is that chocolate and cocoa are not one in the same.
While chocolate and cocoa are both made from the cacao bean, cocoa does not contain cocoa butter while chocolate does. This is one of the reasons for the difference in taste and texture of the two. The cocoa butter gives chocolate a creamier texture, sweeter taste and higher sugar and fat content than the cocoa butter free cocoa.
Make no mistake, adding a piece of dark chocolate here and there to an unhealthy diet will not lead to any long lasting improvements in your health. However, the careful addition of flavonoid-rich chocolate will certainly keep your heart and brain content. If you are in need of a small treat after a good meal, every now and then, it’s okay to given to this craving.