Why is chocolate good for you?
Why is dark chocolate good for you?
Scientists have studied chocolate extensively and proved that many of its characteristics are good for your health. Meanwhile, we must not forget that it is particularly dark chocolate, i.e. chocolate with a high cocoa content, which is most beneficial.
It is an antioxidant called flavonol epicatechin that has the most magical effect in chocolate. This affects the cell’s “powerhouse” – the mitochondria. According to Francisco Villarreal, Professor of Biomedicine at the University of California (2012), their well-being helps in the prevention of many diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.
Heart and blood pressure
Based on research German scientists confirm that dark chocolate helps to lower high blood pressure by having a relaxing effect on the cells of the blood vessel walls. As a result, the vascular lumen expands and hypertension decreases (Desch, S. et al., 2010). An international study led by Swiss researchers found that dark chocolate also has a widening effect on the heart’s blood vessels (coronary arteries) (Flammer, A. et al., 2007).
The relaxing effects of dark chocolate flavonoids on blood vessels have been also recognised by other researchers. Australian researchers led by Dr Karin Ried (2012) have concluded from 15 studies that consuming dark chocolate for at least 14 days lowers high blood pressure by an average of 5 mmHg. This can reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 20%.
Dark chocolate contains flavonoid catechins, which are antioxidants and help to strengthen the walls of the heart and blood vessels and protect body cells from the harmful effects of free radicals. In tests on animals American scientists (Vinson et al., 2006) found that catechins inhibit atherosclerosis and lower cholesterol. So therefore, chocolate can have a positive effect in preventing heart disease.
A research team led by Steve Atkin, Professor of Diabetes and Endocrinology at Hull University, England recommends eating dark chocolate for type 2 diabetes to prevent heart disease, since it helps to keep fluctuating blood sugar levels stable (2010).
Brain and thinking
The flavonoid epicatechin in chocolate helps maintain brain cells by stimulating blood flow to the capillaries and helping in the formation of new capillaries. This has been studied, for example, by Astrid Nehling, a French doctor in physiology and neurochemistry. According to her research, dark chocolate helps to prevent brain degenerative changes in the elderly and keep the memory fresh, but it is not clear from what age it should be eaten regularly (2012).
Professor Eric Ding (2012) summarised 24 studies at a conference of the American Society of Chemists in San Diego, which concluded that cocoa flavonoids in chocolate do not alter body mass index in case of moderate consumption of chocolate. However, if you eat large quantities you run the risk of it giving you too much energy.
Chocolate helps prevent stress and improves your mood by stimulating the production of the “happy” hormone endorphin. Dr Astrid Nehling (2012), who has researched cocoa flavonoids, writes that eating chocolate also increases your sense of well-being.
According to the Estonian Food Recommendations (2006), the daily limit for sweets is 2 to 4 servings, with 1 serving being 10 g of chocolate or 2 teaspoons of sugar, honey or jam. Thus, in order for dark chocolate to have a healthy and beneficial effect on the body, you should eat an average of 3 pieces of dark chocolate a day.