Written by Steph Payne
Enjoy your chocolate guilt-free as we unwrap ' super-sciency'facts on chocolate... For so many of us, winter is a great time to hunker down in front of the tv with a large tub of chocolates. The good news: recent research shows that in moderation chocolate has multiple health benefits.
1. Reduces depression.
A recent study (University College London, 2019), found that “individuals who reported any dark chocolate consumption had 70% lower odds of reporting clinically relevant depressive symptoms than those who did not report any chocolate consumption". Chocolate contains tryptophan- an amino acid which helps the brain produce serotonin aka your brain’s happy drug. It’s more common for people to feel low in the winter months; if your neighbour is struggling, why not drop a bar through their door sometime?
2. Cholesterol is reduced and circulation increases.
Cocoa consumption has been found to reduce levels of LDLs (“bad” cholesterol) and raise levels of “good” cholesterol, which helps to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease (Tokede OA, Gaziano JM, Djoussé L, 2011). A 2014 study also found that dark chocolate can help prevent white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels. Healthy arteries should have smooth inner walls which allow blood to flow around the body easily, increasing circulation.
3. Rich in iron, potassium and zinc.
In the female body iron levels drop around your period (Higgins, 2015), which may explain any PMS-style cravings for chocolate snacks to top them up! 100g of dark chocolate can provide around 67% of your recommended daily iron intake. That’s more than in the same amount of broccoli (6%) or spinach (20%). Chocolate also contains an anti-oxidant called selenium, which helps to limit cell damage caused by ageing and pollutants.
4. Weight loss.
Don’t worry, we had our confused faces on when we looked into this too. However, neuroscientist Will Clower says one small square of good chocolate melted on the tongue 20 minutes before a meal triggers hormones in the brain that tell us we’re full. In theory, this lessens the amount of food you subsequently go on to consume. In addition to this, finishing a meal with the same small trigger could reduce subsequent snacking (Clower, 2019), so next time you head to a dinner party, it might be worth taking some chocs!
5. Healthy brain.
Sadly this only applies to dark chocolate, but the flavanols in higher cocoa content bars are thought to reduce memory loss in older people. Chocolate contains anti-oxidants which have the ability to enhance the frequency of gamma brain waves. These relate to memory and recall functions. Dark chocolate’s anti-inflammatory qualities have also been found to be beneficial in treating brain injuries such as concussion (Roberts, 2014).
And an extra one for the guys…
6. Reduction in stroke risk.
Finnish researchers found that chocolate consumption lowers the risk of suffering a stroke in later life by around 17% on average (Larsson, 2012). The study only included men, so no word yet on whether the effects are the same for us. But whether you’re sharing your snacks with your dad, grandad or partner, at least you know you’re doing them some long-term good!
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