Sunday, March 23, 2014

Health Benefits of Chocolate

By Meagan Jaskot 

The average American consumes about 12 pounds of chocolate each year, but recent studies have suggested that chocolate may actually be good for you. Yes, you read it right,  chocolate can benefit your health in more ways than one. Studies show that regular chocolate consumption can actually make you lose weight and live longer. Here is a closer look at the advantages:

1) Increased Heart Health
Cocoa contains flavanols that relaxes blood vessels  which  results in lower blood pressure and lowers the likelihood for heart attacks. For women, chocolate consumption  could also reduce the risk for stroke.

2) It's Good for your Skin
Contrary to popular belief, daily chocolate intake results in smoother, younger looking skin. Dark chocolate is proven to hydrate the skin, while also making your skin more resistant to the sun's harmful rays.

3) Faster Blood Flow
Chocolate increases blood flow to the brain, which means better focus. It also speeds blood flow to the retinas which is good news for anyone concerned about vision. With blood reaching the retinas at a quicker pace, vision is slower to deteriorate. It also acts as a blood thinner, which thereby reduces clotting.

4) Increased Life Expectancy
A Harvard study concluded that those who indulge in chocolate enjoy longer life spans than those who do not.  In fact, Jeanne Calment, who holds the record for longest human lifespan, lived to see 122 years. Her secret? She consumed a whopping  2.2 pounds of chocolate every week.

5) Reduced Stress
Chocolate is an effective stress reliever. After eating chocolate, your brain releases endorphin and increased serotonin levels. People who eat chocolate are recognized for having less stress and  better overall moods.

6) Fewer Cavities
Unlike any other sweet, dark chocolate hardens tooth enamel.  Stronger enamel is associated with fewer cavities so long as you continue taking care of your teeth.

7) Weight Loss
Minimal amounts of chocolate will fill you up quicker than other sweets.  By avoiding chocolate, you might actually consume more calories throughout the course of the day.  Moderate chocolate eating can reduce your appetite and actually help you lose weight.

8) Lower Blood Pressure
In a study, chocolate consumption lowered blood pressure by an average of 2millimeters of mercury. For example, a blood pressure of 120/80 would lessen to 118/80 as an effect of chocolate.

9) Lower Cholesterol
Yet another heart healthy benefit, chocolate lowers LDL, or "bad" cholesterol levels. On the contrary, chocolate raises HDL, or "good" cholesterol.

10) Lower Risk for Diabetes
Chocolate heightens the body's sensitivity to insulin, which not only reduces diabetic symptoms, but also lessens the risk for diabetes on the whole.

Chocolate lovers shouldn't rejoice too quickly. As the saying goes, all things are good in moderation. Just one ounce of chocolate per day will suffice.  Excessive chocolate eating won't do you any good.  A "less is more" philosophy is best when it comes to sweets.

Additionally, dark chocolate is proven to be significantly healthier than any other flavor.  Darker chocolate is typically more of an acquired taste, as most people prefer milk chocolate. Commercially available chocolate should be avoided for best results. Health conscious consumers should keep in mind the rule of thumb that the darker the chocolate, the better.

If eaten modestly, chocolate proves to have a startling amount of health benefits. So, next time your sweet tooth kicks in, don't be afraid to indulge a little!

For more information on why chocolate is a healthy snack, visit:

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