The health benefits of chocolate include active heart function, appetite control, boost memory, mood elevation, treating cough and cold, smooth functioning of nervous system, and stress relief. It also helps to improve vision, increase energy, protect sunburn, cure diarrhea, and prevent cancer.
What is Chocolate?
Chocolate is a sweet, brown preparation of roasted or ground Theobroma cacao seeds. It is found in liquid, paste, or solid block form. The three essential components of chocolate are cocoa (scientific name – Theobroma cacao L.), milk, and sugar. It’s equally dear to the young and the old and to men and women and this mouth-watering treat, which has been around for more than 3000 years, can be very beneficial for your health.
Nutrition Facts of Chocolate
Chocolate is high in calories and contains carbohydrates, sugar, and fats, along with some amount of protein. It is a rich source of vitamin B12, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin E and minerals such as phosphorus, manganese, and zinc. It also contains calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron. Chocolate, especially the dark chocolate variety made from cocoa beans, is packed with a wide variety of powerful antioxidants like flavonoids and polyphenols.
Health Benefits of Chocolate
The health benefits of chocolate include the following:
Reduces Heart Risks
Consuming chocolate reduces cardiovascular risks by one-third. Stearic acid, in spite of being a saturated fatty acid found in cocoa, does not contribute to cholesterol levels and can reduce the possibility of heart attacks and atherosclerosis which is caused by inflammation of arteries. Cocoa is also known to reduce the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase the levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. The antioxidant properties of the flavonoids also protect the heart against damages inflicted by the free radicals.
Chocolate’s higher variant, dark chocolate is also known to suppress appetite. Consuming dark chocolate gives a feeling of being full which helps avoid overeating.
Maintains Nervous System
A study suggests that epicatechin and flavonoids, compounds present in dark chocolate, may help protect the brain from strokes. These compounds are also found to be helpful in the treating nervous disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Treats Cough & Cold
Cocoa, 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 provide relief from a sore throat, 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, resulting in lower blood sugar levels.
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 procyanidins, 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, procyanidins (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.
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.
Side-effects of Chocolate
Avoid intake of chocolate in the following conditions:
- Less physical activity: Chocolates with lots of milk cream, butter, and sugar are not recommended for obese people or for those who participate in very little physical activity. Furthermore, it is good for athletes and hard toilers.
- On medication: The caffeine in chocolate neutralizes other drugs (particularly homeopathic medicines). So, avoid it when on medication.
- Sensitivity to caffeine: Caffeine side effects include sleeplessness and nervousness. Cocoa is also addictive due to the presence of caffeine and other alkaloids and amines.
Consuming chocolate can also cause:
- Low sugar levels: Eating too much dark and sugar-free chocolate can drop sugar levels in the blood to alarming levels and can cause fatigue.
- Physical Distress: The alkaloids can cause headaches, migraines, neurotic disturbances, allergies, and constipation.
- Lead Poisoning: 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 it 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!