This world famous food really needs no introduction. But there are plenty of people that don’t know some of the most interesting facts about this delicious sweet! I will just tell you that it is equally dear to the young and the old and to men and women and that you will be surprised to know that your favorite cocoa has been in for more than 3000 years!
The three essential components of chocolate are cocoa (scientific name – Theobroma cacao L.), milk, and sugar and that this mouthwatering treat can be very beneficial for your health. Want to know what some of those benefits are? Why not continue reading for all the sweet details?
Table of Contents
Health Benefits of Chocolate
The health benefits of chocolate include the following:
Maintains Nervous System
Chocolate contains vitamin-C and antioxidant flavonoids whose main components are polyphenols like catechins, epicatechins, and procyandins that prevent the brain and the nervous systems from becoming dull with age, while also protecting them from damage by free radicals. They also increase serotonin levels in the brain, which increases efficiency of the brain, keeping it active and sharp. They are also helpful in the treatment of nervous disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Improves Heart Function
Flavonoids such as epicatechin and gallic acid are very effective in keeping the heart healthy, particularly against age and stress. Stearic acid, in spite of being a saturated fatty acid found in cocoa, do not contribute to cholesterol levels and can even reduce the possibility of heart attacks. The antioxidant properties of the flavonoids also protect the heart against damages inflicted by the free radicals.
Cocoa contains caffeine (although not as much as coffee) which is an alkaloid, theobromine and phenylethylamine (an amine, particularly known to be anti-depressant) all of which are stimulant in nature. They are very effective as mood elevators and anti-depressants. Cocoa also contains Tryptophan, an amino acid which has relaxing effects. This has soothing and refreshing effects in cases of tension and stress.
Flavonoids in cocoa contain polyphenols like catechins, epicatechins, and procyandins, which have been seen to increase nitric oxide levels in the blood, which helps in maintaining proper blood pressure. Nitric oxide is particularly helpful in preventing thickening or coagulation (clotting) of blood and maintaining fluidity, thereby decreasing pressure on the arteries and veins and finally regulating blood pressure. One more compound, Theobromine is slightly diuretic in nature. This promotes urinating, which also helps in lowering high blood pressure. Potassium in cocoa is also helpful in lowering blood pressure. On the other hand, in case of people suffering from low blood pressure, the stimulants like caffeine and theobromine, as well as the sugar present in chocolate, helps elevate blood pressure to correct levels.
Polyphenols like catechins, epicatechins, procyandins (components of Flavonoids), and vitamin-C present in cocoa are very good antioxidants. They minimize the effects of free radicals and heal up the damage already caused by these dangerous cellular byproducts. They are also very effective in preventing age-related disorders such as loss of vision and hearing, dullness of the brain, macular degeneration, and nervous disorders.
Cocoa, due to its alkaloids, has been in use against diarrhea for ages.
Flavonoids in cocoa are good anti-carcinogens. They prevent the growth of cancerous cells. This is aided by their antioxidant properties, which also help neutralize carcinogenic effects of free radicals.
Theobromine and phenethylamine are two compounds that are supposed to be aphrodisiac in nature (proof still needs to be analyzed and documented), and may be due to their stimulating properties.
Treats Cough & Cold
Cocoa, again due to vitamin-C, alkaloids, and flavonoids present in it, gives relief from coughs and colds. The fatty acids such as stearic acid, palmitic acid, and oleic acid in it relieves throat sore due to continuous coughing and colds.
Dark and sugar-free chocolate (cocoa) is very bitter to taste due to the presence of alkaloids like caffeine and others. The bitterness of these alkaloids neutralizes the sugar in the blood. Moreover, being a stimulant in nature, they stimulate the secretion of bile and insulin, which again help to break down the sugar and lower its levels in the blood.
Improves Energy Levels
Fatty acids like stearic acid and palmitic acid (both saturated) and oleic acid (unsaturated) help put on weight and give energy, without the risk of accumulating cholesterol, as far as pure cocoa is concerned. When cocoa is made into chocolate, the amount of cholesterol you get depends on the type of milk (toned, semi-toned or full cream) and milk products (butter, milk solids) used in it and the exercises you do. The sugar in chocolate also gives energy and relaxes the body.
Words of Caution
Chocolates with lots of milk cream, butter, and sugar is not recommended for obese people or for those who participate in very little physical activity. Furthermore, it is good for athletes and hard toilers. Eating too much dark and sugar-free chocolate can drop sugar levels in the blood to alarming levels and can cause fatigue. The alkaloids can cause headaches, migraines, neurotic disturbances, allergies, and constipation. The caffeine in it neutralizes other drugs (particularly homeopathic medicines). Therefore, chocolate should be avoided in such cases. Cocoa is addictive due to the presence of caffeine and other alkaloids and amines. Cocoa may also lead to lead poisoning in the long run, as cocoa beans absorb lead. Consuming it with milk reduces the above discussed adverse effects to a great extent, but not completely. Cocoa can be dangerous for some pets, so don’t eat them indiscriminately or leave it lying around the house.
This article has educated you on the potential benefits of chocolate. Therefore, consider having one of many different types of chocolates delivered to you, or get some from almost any store around!