You may dream of chocolate-covered strawberries and relaxing in front of the TV with a box of bonbons. Many do, and it’s because chocolate causes serotonin to be released in our bodies. This feel-good chemical relaxes us and elevates our mood. But in addition, chocolate can also help us pack on the pounds.
Understanding the health benefits of chocolate begins with knowing which types are most beneficial to our bodies. The chocolate found in most commercial bars contains high amounts of fats and sugars. And even some chocolates we may consider to be good for us can be detrimental if it contains too many calories in the form of fats and sugars.
Benefits of Dark Chocolate Consumption
There has been much ado about the health benefits of consuming dark chocolate. In 2011, a study revealed that general chocolate consumption actually reduced the risk of stroke by 20 percent in women where more than 45 grams per week were consumed. In addition to reducing stroke risk, those who eat chocolate on a regular basis benefit their hearts by lowering blood pressure, bad cholesterol and heart disease risk.
Because dark chocolate is high in fiber, it helps you to feel fuller for longer, which means you can enjoy more of it, but ultimately eat less of other potentially-unhealthy snacks. And if you’re lamenting about getting pimples from eating chocolate, the best news is that dark chocolate is chock full of flavonoids which are antioxidants that actually help your skin to repair damage. As it turns out, chocoloate’s pimple-causing properties is just a myth.
Blood flow is another thing that chocolate benefits. Just like aspirin thins the blood, cocoa boasts the same properties. The result is improved blood flow and circulation. With more blood getting to your body’s organs, things like your brain and vision can benefit.
How Much Is the Key
As much as many of us may want to consider chocolate to be in its own food group, we must remember to consume it in moderation.
Even if you are choosing healthier dark chocolate, it’s how much you consume that will make the difference. Even the healthiest chocolate can be bad for you if you decide to binge. And binging has other health risks – if you’re busy eating chocolate most of the time, that means you won’t be eating as much as you should of recommended foods like fruits and vegetables.
Unsweetened cocoa powder could be one consumption exception, because it is very low on the calorie scale and contains incredibly high amounts of flavonoids. But even this should be consumed with caution.
Making Chocolate Part of a Healthy Lifestyle
Removing sugar from the diet is something that many doctors, chiropractors and nutritionists recommend. But that doesn’t mean that you have to give up your treats. There are many natural sugar substitutes on the market which provide the sweet without dangerous sugar spikes, one of them being cocoa.
When looking for a healthy chocolate, try and find one with 70% or more in cocoa content. When you do, consuming it in moderation is the best way to ensure you’re receiving all of the healthy benefits it has to offer.
Try consuming a dark chocolate treat as a reward for doing well at work or school, or when you have a craving for another snack food which may not be as healthy for you. A good rule of thumb is to not eat from the package, but remove a piece or two to enjoy instead.
And of course, there is no substitute for exercise, which should be done on a daily basis if possible. Incorporating healthy chocolate as part of a healthy lifestyle can mean positive changes in your mood, skin and body that everyone will notice.
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Guest author Ruth Suelemente writes on a variety of topics, but is particularly passionate about health and wellness. She helps consumers analyze and compare the best diets for weight loss. You can also find Ruth on Google.