Blissful Belle

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Chocolate: Friend Or Foe?


     Friend! It turns out that a daily dose of your favorite chocolate treat can actually be beneficial for your health! The research has been correlating for years, but it looks like scientists finally have good news for all the chocolate lovers. Recent studies have shown that the cocoa in chocolate can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and assist blood flow to the brain. Not so fast Belles! Before you grab a chocolate bar or that slice of chocolate cake, it’s important to understand that not all forms of chocolate contain high levels of flavonoids. What are flavonoids? Flavonoids are natural compounds which are usually found in foods that are plant based and offer many health benefits. The cocoa or “cacao” beans found in chocolate contain flavonoids which work as antioxidants and can help protect the body from free radical damage.

     Chocolate contains a number of vital minerals that every woman needs to sustain a healthy immune system. These minerals include:

  • Iron: According to Allchocolate.com, “On average, a dark chocolate bar has nearly 7 percent of the required daily allowance of iron. An average unsweetened chocolate bar packs in 13.3 percent of the daily requirement.” Iron is the number one mineral for preventing anemia. Its main function is to help carry oxygen through the body and into the lungs. This is why some research has shown that it is beneficial to have a one inch block of dark chocolate before working out. The iron in dark chocolate will allow you to better control your breathing
  • Calcium: Otherwise known as the “healthy bone mineral.” One serving of Hershey’s Milk Chocolate can cover 8 percent of your recommended daily intake of calcium.
  • Copper: Copper is most important for your heart health. According to an article on About.com, there have been several studies conducted within the last decade and almost every study has been able to prove an association between chocolate and cardiovascular health. “Several of these studies have shown that chocolate consumption is associated with reduced blood pressure. At least one study showed that women who ate chocolate had a significantly reduced risk of developing heart failure.”
  •  Magnesium: It is amazing how much a small serving of dark chocolate can do! One bar can deliver almost 12 percent of the daily recommended magnesium requirement. Magnesium may also help reduce the risk of several chronic illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension.

      Are we beginning to see a pattern here? Chocolate contains minerals that might prevent cardiovascular diseases. So, chocolate not only tastes great, but it contributes to a healthy heart. Thankfully, the chocolate benefits don’t end there. Chocolate, especially of the dark variety, also increases your brain function. Dark chocolate boosts blood flow to key areas of the brain for two to three hours. Increased blood flow might help to enhance performance in specific tasks and boost general alertness over a short period of time. Personally, a Hershey’s dark chocolate during finals week is my best friend! It helps make me feel alert and ready to study without feeling lazy. Instead of having four cups of coffee a day, or gulping down a calorie-packed energy drink, opt for a little bit of chocolate for an afternoon pick-me-up.

 

But what about the fat in Chocolate?

I know what you’re thinking, this doesn’t change anything because chocolate will still make me put on a few extra pounds and increase my daily sugar intake. Have no fear, the good news just keeps on coming! It turns out that some of the fats in chocolate do not impact cholesterol. Unfortunately, the exact dose of chocolate to achieve cardiovascular benefits has yet to be discovered. However, studies that have reported heart health benefits from chocolate considered a range between 100 grams of chocolate per day to be extremely beneficial.

The key word is moderation. Having your daily fix of chocolate is OK as long as you’re taking in small servings of a high cocoa treat. Below are some chocolate bars with high cocoa content that will allow indulgence while keeping a shapely figure.

  • Lindt excellence dark chocolate bar – 70 percent cocoa
  • Ghiradelli intense dark – 72 percent cocoa
  • Michel Cluizel Noir De Cacao – 85 percent cocoa

        This is not to say that you should eat a full bar of chocolate every day, but in order to maximize all of the benefits chocolate has to offer try not to consume too many of the processed variety. These chocolates carry a lot of sugar and milk fat so they would be the ones to avoid. Instead, choose the purest dark chocolate you can find and don’t be afraid to read the label! It is important to know what you’re eating. The best dark chocolate to eat has at least 60 percent cocoa solids. The next time you’re standing in line at the convenience store with a strong chocolate craving, grab a dark chocolate bar for a nutritious treat.

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2 comments on “Chocolate: Friend Or Foe?

  1. Tiff
    September 13, 2011

    Dark chocolate helps control your breathing when you work out? I will have to try that!

  2. claire
    September 14, 2011

    WOW. I had no idea chocolate had so many health benefits. on my way to pick up some dark chocolate right now!

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