The health benefits of chocolate

This Sunday (7 July) is World Chocolate Day. Here are 10 convincing health reasons why you should eat more of the stuff!

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article which appeared on The Telegraph website, written by Andrew Baker.

Chocolate is the ultimate comfort food – but is it at all healthy? If you scoff lots of it, obviously not. But there are a host of medically proven ways in which chocolate — good chocolate, which is to say dark chocolate, with a cocoa percentage of around 70% or more — really is good for us.

Research is continuing all the time, and experts have already found that chocolate is good for the heart, circulation and brain, and it has been suggested that it may be beneficial in such major heath challenges as autism, obesity and diabetes. In fact, research also suggests that eating chocolate could help keep your brain function whirring into old age.

Here are 10 scientifically established health benefits of good chocolate.

1. It’s good for the heart and circulation
A study found that dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries, while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels – both common causes of artery clogging.

2. It reduces risk of stroke
Researchers in Finland found that chocolate consumption lowered the risk of suffering a stroke by a staggering 17% average in the group of men they tested.

3. It’s mineral-rich
Dark chocolate is packed with beneficial minerals such as potassium, zinc and selenium – and a 100g bar of dark (70% or more) chocolate provides 67% of the recommended dietary allowance of iron.

4. It reduces cholesterol
Consumption of cocoa has been shown to reduce levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) and raise levels of ‘good’ cholesterol, potentially lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease.

5. It’s good for your skin
The flavonols in dark chocolate can protect the skin against sun damage – though you’d probably better still slap on some sun cream!

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6. It can help you lose weight
Chocolate can help you lose weight. Really! Neuroscientist Will Clower says a small square of good chocolate melted on the tongue 20 minutes before a meal triggers the hormones in the brain that say ‘I’m full’, cutting the amount of food you subsequently consume. Finishing a meal with the same small trigger could reduce subsequent snacking.

7. It’s good for mothers and babies
A Finnish study found that chocolate reduced stress in expectant mothers, and that the babies of such mothers smiled more often than the offspring of non-chocolate-eating parents.

8. It may prevent diabetes
It sounds mad, but cocoa has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. So dark chocolate – in moderation – might delay or prevent the onset of diabetes.

9. Chocolate is good for the brain
Flavanols are thought to reduce memory loss in older people, and the anti-inflammatory qualities of dark chocolate have been found to be beneficial in treating brain injuries such as concussion.

10. Chocolate makes you feel better
Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which is the same chemical that your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. PEA encourages your brain to release feel-good endorphins.

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