Chocolate: Junk Food or Healthy Food?

Chocolate has become an incredibly popular food product that millions people enjoy every day, thanks to its unique, rich, and sweet taste.

But what effect does eating chocolate have on our health? Does it have any health benefits?

Over the years, chocolate consumption has been associated with conditions such as acne, tooth decay, obesity, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and diabetes. But recent studies have discovered that chocolate has greater benefits on our health than only curing a broken heart.

The secret behind its powerful punch is cacao, the source of healthy chemicals like flavonoids and the obromine. This little bean is surely a disease-killing bullet. Regular, moderate chocolate consumption may yield significant health benefits, particularly when it comes to dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has the highest cocoa content, which means it has the highest levels of antioxidants—specifically, flavonoids—which are molecules that can prevent some forms of cell damage. The higher the cocoa content, the more health benefits there are and the less sugar content means the better for overall health.

Do you still remember a scene after Harry Potter being attacked by Dementor on the train and Professor Lupin gave him chocolate bar to help him overcome the shock? And that’s only one example on how this product made from tropical Theobroma cacao tree seeds is beneficial to our mind and body.

So, let’s check out some other surprising health benefits coming from chocolate :

1. On a diet? Have chocolate on your menu
Because it’s rich in fiber, dark chocolate can actually help to keep you full, so you’ll eat less.

2. UV damage? No worries, thanks to chocolate
The type of antioxidants called flavonoids found in dark chocolate offer some protection from UV damage from the sun. But that does not mean you can skip the sunscreen.

3. Afraid of diabetes? Prevent it with chocolate
A small Italian study from 2005 found that regularly eating chocolate increases insulin sensitivity, thereby reducing risk for diabetes.

4. Can’t stop coughing? Have chocolate
An ingredient in chocolate called theobromine seems to reduce activity of the vagus nerve, the part of the brain that triggers hard-to-shake coughs.

5. Stressed out? Chocolate is the answer
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.

6. Be brighter with chocolate
Drinking cocoa rich in flavanols boosts blood flow to key parts of the brain for 2 to 3 hours, which could improve performance and alertness in the short term.

7. Have a healthier heart while enjoying chocolate
Dark chocolate is especially heart-healthy because of its inflammation-fighting properties, which reduce cardiovascular risk. Regular chocolate eaters will have lower blood pressure,
lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and a lower risk of heart disease.

But before you reach that tasty Cadbury, please keep in mind that it is important to distinguish the difference between chocolate that contains natural cocoa and processed chocolate; the latter is much higher in calories. So snack smart, stick to healthy chocolate with at least 70 percent cacao (or cocoa; cacao in its roasted, ground form). Limit yourself to 7 ounces, or about four dark chocolate bars, a week. And physical activity, diet and other lifestyle factors must be carefully balanced to avoid detrimental weight gain over time from its consumption. Even the bittersweet varieties can be high in calories, fat and sugar.

So, don’t be surprised if one day you visit your doctor and he gives you a prescription for chocolate!!

photo: www.express.co.uk

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