Chocolate Benefits For The Body And Brain

Chocolate Benefits For The Body And Brain

For someone trying to boost energy and lose weight, chocolate might seem like a four-letter word. What type of energy would I get from chocolate, a sugar rush? If I eat a lot of chocolate aren’t I going to gain a lot of weight?

The short answer is yes, if you eat too much chocolate, and the wrong kind, you will gain weight. But there are health benefits to chocolate. And there’s something to be said for a balanced life.

The balanced life steers away from austerity and satisfies the entirety of the human palette—in moderation. If you’re eating too much of a certain food it will throw off your yin-yang balance. But if you eat the right amount of chocolate, you’ll feel great.

So I’m going to go into the health benefits of chocolate. But I’m also going to talk about a development in the world of chocolate that could affect the world’s healthy chocolate consumption. By that, I mean there is chocolate that’s healthy for us. But there’s also a development that could limit how much of the good stuff is available.

Health benefits of chocolate

Cocoa powder and beans in spoons on wooden background

This is a food I personally feel has been misused by industry. We use it to make candy but not for its health benefits. Beware of candy made with milk chocolate—it has very little actual cocoa in it, and very minimal health benefits, if any. To harvest the benefits of the good stuff, all you need to eat is one ounce of dark chocolate (consisting of at least 70% cocoa) per day. That equals 155 calories in terms of your intake.

Why real, pure chocolate is good for you stems from one simple fact: it’s derived from a plant. The cocoa bean that grows from cocoa trees is high in flavonoids. The flavonoid is a compound in green plants. Flavonoids protect the plant from disease and damage. They also protect the human being.

Cocoa powder has the highest percentage of flavonoids because it’s the purest, most unadulterated form. Behind that comes dark chocolate.

Flavonoids help reduce arterial inflammation. American and Swiss researchers found a link between flavonoid consumption and reduction of blood clots. Blood clots lead to heart attack and stroke. When you reduce inflammation of arteries, you make it easier for blood to flow.

Simultaneously, polyphenols in chocolate release nitric oxide, which signals the arteries to dilate. Chocolate is good for you because the flavonoids and polyphenols work together to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. The increased circulation also has cognitive benefits, because you’re getting more blood to your brain. Your memory is energized and blood flow to the extremities is maximized.

But milk neutralizes this positive effect. Milk makes polyphenols unavailable to your body, because casein in milk interacts with polyphenols so that your intestine can’t absorb them. That’s why milk chocolate bars (which are about 10% cocoa and also don’t have as many flavonoids) don’t do the trick.

The coming chocolate shortage

Yes chocolate has health benefits. But there’s news we’re consuming too much of it while supply is too low. Dry climate in chocolate-producing areas, such as the Ivory Coast and Ghana, has contributed to decline. And, a fungal disease called frosty pod has wiped out about 30-40% of cocoa. An agricultural group in Central Africa is trying to genetically engineer a tree to produce up to seven times the amount of cocoa beans a real cocoa tree can produce. But this will come at the expense of taste.

Huge chocolate producers, Mars, Inc. and Barry Callebaut, are the ones reporting this shortage. They have operations that figuratively eat up more cocoa than anyone else. If it weren’t for their operations, of it weren’t for the candy industry that capitalizes on watered-down chocolate, a shortage would not exist. The growing popularity of dark chocolate has no doubt contributed to the shortage. But dark chocolate production is nowhere near the volume of milk chocolate production.

The takeaway

Stick to an ounce of dark chocolate per day and you’ll feel the benefits of this powerful plant. You can make it a reward for regular exercise. Or, it can more than justify making this chocolate lava protein cake. But hey, who needs a justification anyhow? We love this stuff.

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Daniel Matthews is a health and creativity enthusiast from the Northwest. He’s also a freelance writer. Please find him on Twitter @danielmatthews0

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