Friday Four: Let’s Talk Chocolate!

Well, it’s Easter after all! In no way is it a weekend for an ‘eat all you want’ fest but when it comes to healthy sweet treats, chocolate is head and shoulders above the rest. It has to be dark chocolate, however. The milky, creamy stuff may satisfy the palate but offers little other than a load of sugar and fat so go over to the dark side this Easter and enjoy a few health benefits!

Chocolate is Heart-Friendly 
Cacao and cocoa are rich in plant chemicals that increase the flexibility of veins and Chocolate is heart-friendlyarteries. In a 9-year Swedish study of more than 31,000 women, those who ate one or two servings of dark chocolate each week cut their risk for heart failure by as much as a third. How much should you eat? A long-term study in Germany found that around one square of dark chocolate a day lowered blood pressure and reduced the risk of heart attack and stroke by 39 percent so little and often is clearly the way to go (well, apart from Easter!)

Chocolate is Gut Friendly
Chocolate is gut friendlyA recent study found that gut bacteria breaks down and ferments the components in dark chocolate, turning them into anti-inflammatory compounds that benefit our health. Beneficial bacteria feast on chocolate and help to reduce the production of inflammatory compounds which lead to all manner of digestive complaints. Interestingly, the researchers also suggested that consuming dark chocolate with antioxidant-rich fruits, such as pomegranate or acai berries boosts the action.

Chocolate Boosts Exercise Endurance
70% cocoa solids plus dark chocolate is rich in a specific molecule, epicatechin which Chocolate boosts exercise enduranceassists in the production of nitric oxide which helps to widen blood vessels and improve blood flow which is splendid news for fitness enthusiasts everywhere. Many professional and recreational athletes take supplements containing the amino acid, L-arginine before exercise in a bit to boost nitric oxide production and boost endurance but results are unreliable. What joy if a small bar of dark chocolate as a pre or post exercise snack reaps better results – give it a go!

Chocolate Makes You Smile
chocolate makes you smileDark chocolate encourages the production of a neurotransmitter produced in the brain called anandamide that temporarily blocks feelings of pain and depression and prolongs the feel good feeling. Some scientists have noted that chocolate prompts a similar high to that experienced when marijuana is used, but why go down that road? Chocolate is much more delicious! There is also evidence that anandamide has the ability to sweeten up your love life as well. Win, win!