women

Our favorite indulgence just became a super food.

Forget about an apple a day – have a square of chocolate. Long considered a guilty pleasure, this mouth-watering treat is jockeying for position as a super food alongside blueberries, green tea and wild salmon. Here’s a closer look at the sweet science behind everyone’s favorite indulgence.

It’s full of antioxidants

Cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate, is rich in flavones, plant nutrients that are powerful antioxidants known to fight cancer, heart disease and ageing, and help control blood sugar levels. In fact, US food scientists have discovered that cocoa contains a higher antioxidant concentration than both red wine and green tea.

It’s good for your heart

The flavones in chocolate have been found to protect against and possibly even reverse chronic inflammation, which affects cardiovascular health as well as other age-related diseases. A recent Australian study concluded that eating a piece of dark chocolate every day for 10 years may reduce heart attacks and strokes in people with metabolic syndrome, thanks to its antioxidant effects.

Description: The flavones in chocolate have been found to protect against and possibly even reverse chronic inflammation, which affects cardiovascular health as well as other age-related diseases.

The flavones in chocolate have been found to protect against and possibly even reverse chronic inflammation, which affects cardiovascular health as well as other age-related diseases.

Other research has shown that the flavones in cocoa can lower blood pressure and improve blood flow – findings that led to the European Commission’s recent approval for Swiss chocolate-maker Barry Callebaut to feature a health claim on its products stating that 200mg of cocoa flavones daily contributes to a healthy blood circulation.

It’s an sharpen your mind

Chocolate’s fabulous flavones are also credited with enhancing cognitive function, memory and thinking skills by boosting blood flow to the brain.

It’s loaded with vitamins and minerals

These include potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure; copper, which promotes a healthy thyroid; calcium, for bone health; magnesium, which aids calcium absorption in the body; and iron, which helps oxygenate the blood and maintain healthy hair, skin and nails.

It makes us feel good

While generations of ads depicting women in various states of chocolate-induced ecstasy are grossly exaggerated, there is solid scientific evidence that the taste of chocolate ignites the brain’s pleasure response. Acting like nature’s own antidepressant, cocoa contains phenethylamine, an amino acid that prompts the release of feel good chemicals in our brains, such as endorphins, dopamine and serotonin.

Description: generations of ads depicting women in various states of chocolate-induced ecstasy are grossly exaggerated

generations of ads depicting women in various states of chocolate-induced ecstasy are grossly exaggerated

It makes you more alert - and calms you down

Even the smell of chocolate can make you feel relaxed. Studies have shown that it increases the theta waves in the brain, which take us to that blissful state we reach just as we’re about to fall asleep. Additionally, the Theo bromine in chocolate is the same natural stimulant in tea that gives you that calm alertness, unlike the jitters you might get from coffee.

It improves skin and protects teeth

Drinking flavone-rich cocoa does wonders for the complexion, boosting hydration, improving blood flow to the dermis and protecting against UV damage. The evidence that the Theo bromine in chocolate hardens tooth enamel and strengthens teeth better than fluoride is so compelling that one US company has launched Theodent, a Theo bromine toothpaste (and yes, it comes in a chocolate flavor).

What you need to know

Most studies involve dark chocolate with at least 70 per cent cocoa content, and some focus on raw cocoa alone. That’s part of the reason why the jury’s still out on how much chocolate a day we should eat to reap the benefits – and whether eating it daily is right for everyone.

It seems moderation, or about 85g, is the way to go. “The research is not about having great quantities,” says nutritionist Aloysa Hourigan. “Even high-quality dark chocolate contains sugar and saturated fat, so we have to balance the pros and cons.”

Description: It improves skin and protects teeth

It improves skin and protects teeth

The Heart Foundation recommends raw cocoa powder over chocolate as an antioxidant source, stressing that a balanced diet including fruit and vegetables is the best way to obtain all the health benefits antioxidants have to offer. Try sprinkling cocoa powder on your oatmeal, add it to smoothies or stir it into warmed low-fat milk.

 

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