I don’t know about you, but I’m a huge chocolate fan! So I was pretty thrilled as research studies started pouring in over the last decade that prove the health benefits of eating chocolate every day. “I have to eat my chocolate: doctor’s orders.”
Better brain function
Flavanols are chemicals found in large quantities in cocoa and chocolate, and they’ve been proven to enhance cognitive function and blood flow to your brain.
In fact, test subjects in one study showed remarkably increased activity on brain scans while they consumed flavanol-rich cacao, and there were no negative side effects for their blood pressure or heart rate.1 (Wouldn’t you love to be a paid subject for that study?) That means cacaos shows real promise for treatment of stroke and dementia patients.
A healthier heart
A large-scale study by the National Heart, Lung, & Blood Institute demonstrated that people who eat more dark chocolate are less likely to suffer from coronary disease.2
Even after adjusting the figures for other risk factors like age, weight, cholesterol levels, sugar consumption, and exercise, researchers found that participants who didn’t eat chocolate regularly were 49% more likely to have heart disease! The results may be due in part to flavanols’ ability to lower blood pressure, but they mean one thing for sure: pass the chocolate bar!
Improved cholesterol levels
Another possible reason for dark chocolate’s positive effects on heart disease risk is that flavanols help lower LDLs and raise HDLs. (Not quite sure what that means? This article will get you up to speed.)
Not only does flavanol-rich cacao consumption increase the body’s ability to process harmful cholesterol particles, it does so without negative effects on prostaglandins – the hormones that help regulate inflammation.3
Believe it or not, eating chocolate every day is a great way to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays!4
Multiple studies show that eating flavanol-rich chocolate every day for 12 weeks cut the impact of UV exposure on skin by at least 25%. It also results in smoother, thicker skin for women, which translates to fewer wrinkles and skin issues.5 It’s worth noting that study participants who ate low-flavanol chocolate (like Hershey’s or other low-cacao, high-sugar chocolate) showed none of the same positive effects.
Decreased insulin resistance
Research proves that just 15 days of eating high-flavanol dark chocolate can improve insulin sensitivity and decrease insulin resistance!9
Your insulin sensitivity measures how well your body is able to respond to blood glucose changes. Long-term exposure to stress, sugar, and harmful foods can result in insulin intolerance, which puts you at higher risk for hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and system-wide inflammation.6-8 Chocolate to the rescue!
Obviously, none of this gives you license to indulge in a daily chocolate binge. But a 2-ounce serving a day of high-flavanol dark chocolate or raw cacao powder is definitely a tasty way to take better care of yourself!
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