Sometimes living an healthier lifestyle is not that hard, and the truth is, it could sometimes even be a joy. In this article series we’ll explore the ways in which we can improve our longevity and quality of life in an enjoyable way.
Chocolate is more then just a tasty treat or a Valentine’s day gift, it could also be great for our health and well-being.
Chocolate, or more accurately: the cocoa plant, has been in the presence of humans for more then 3500 years. The first use of cocoa for consumption could be dated To dates back to at least 1900 B.C.E to 1500 B.C.E Mesoamerica. The Aztec’s used to prepare the cocoa as a bitter drink which they believed acts as an aphrodisiac that could increase the vitality of its drinker. (1)
Recent studies shows that the Aztec’s weren’t so far from the truth. The cocoa beans are rich with flavonoids, which are chemical compounds that could be found in certain plants. Flavonoids could be beneficial for your health, and could be found naturally in large quantities in tea, blueberries, red wine apples and cocoa. Cocoa flavonoids are unique and are the best source of antioxidants on the plant. (2)
Cocoa has got plenty of health benefits for humans. Consumption of cocoa, or more specifically, cocoa flavonoids, was found to improve blood flow, increase cognitive performance, decrease stress and even reduce wrinkles. It seems that cocoa consumption can be of benefit both for health span and for good feeling.
Improved blood flow
The specific type of flavonoids found in cocoa was found very effective in increasing blood flow and reducing the risk of cardiovascular morbidity. In one study, participants that consumed flavonoid rich dark chocolate showed improved blood flow and Analysis of the results shows causal relationship between the two (3). Better blood flow is associated with deceased cardiovascular morbidity and could also improve the walking ability of old people (4). Cardiovascular disease are the are the leading cause of death worldwide except Africa, so it seems that combining chocolate consumption with other healthy lifestyle habits like exercise and good nutrition could be a good strategy for preventing these diseases and to live longer and healthier.
Increased cognitive performance
lately there seem to be growing interest in the role cocoa could play in increasing cognitive performance. Number of studies show that high flavonoid consumption is found in relation to increased cognitive performance. One study that examined the effect of cocoa flavonoid consumption on cognitive performance found that after cocoa consumption participants showed improvements in cognitive performances which tend to decrease with age. The improvement was related to the amount of consumption and surprisingly lasted even 24 hours after the intake (5). It seems that cocoa consumption could help stave off the cognitive decline associated with ageing.
Researches from Loma Linda university examined the effect of chocolate consumption on brain waves (7). In their study, Participants received 48 grams of 70% dark chocolate and were scanned in in an EEG machine . The results showed a significant increase in Gama brain waves, which are associated with lowering stress, improving memory and mood, (8) even two hours after consumption. These results could explain why even today there are spiritual communities who participate In “Cocoa ceremonies” in which the participants consume large amounts of cocoa, around 50 grams, close to the amount used in the study, and describing similar feelings of increased mood and lowered stress.
chocolate can protect your skin from wrinkles. In one study, Korean women suffering from photoaging consumed 320 mg of Cocoa flavonoids. After 24 weeks the women showed an improvement in their wrinkles visibility and skin elasticity (9).
How much chocolate should I eat?
Even though most of us would like to eat chocolate all the time, it has calories and sometimes a lot of sugar per 100 grams. Researchers recommend eating around 10 grams of chocolate as part of a balanced diet (3). Sadly for milk chocolate lovers, the best effects usually comes from high cocoa content and therefor it is recommended to consume dark chocolate which is also lower in harmful sugars. It is important to note that the amount of flavonoids used in the researches shows is higher than those in chocolate. For the results showed, consider buying a cocoa flavonoid supplement, 450 mg of which could help lower cardiovascular risk (10) and for the cognitive benefits you should aim for up to 1000 mg (5)
- Watson, Traci (22 January 2013). “Earliest Evidence of Chocolate in North America”. Science.
Retrieved 3 March 2014.