“All the things I really like to do are either illegal, immoral, or fattening.”
– Alexander Woollcott
Chocolate is bad for you, right? It rots your teeth, makes you fat, and gives you pimples. After all, that’s what we all grew up hearing, from our parents, doctors, dentists …
Before you swear off the sweet stuff, though, you may want to give chocolate another look. Recent evidence has shown that, far from being bad for us, eating small amounts of dark chocolate on a regular basis may actually be a healthy habit.
First of all, while many sweet snacks are simply vehicles for empty calories, dark chocolate actually has great nutritional value. It’s loaded with beneficial vitamins and minerals, including high concentrations of potassium, copper, magnesium, and iron.
Here’s a look at some of the other important roles chocolate can play in promoting good health:
Brain Booster: Dark chocolate increases blood flow to the brain, which improves cognitive function. The copper in chocolate can also reduce the risk of stroke.
Damage Dampener: Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants, which fight damaging free radicals in the body. Free radicals cause oxidation in cells, which is implicated in both aging and cancer.
Heart Helper: The magnesium in chocolate helps to prevent high blood pressure and heart disease. Eating dark chocolate also improves blood flow and can help prevent the formation of blood clots, as well as arteriosclerosis, which is a fancy name for the hardening of the arteries.
Mood Manager: Dark chocolate contains a number of chemical compounds that can improve your mood. Key among these is phenylethylamine, which causes your brain to release endorphins that make you happy. Phenylethylamine is actually the same chemical our brains produce when we’re falling in love. No wonder eating chocolate feels so good!
Pep Producer: Dark chocolate contains at least two stimulants, caffeine and theobromine, which will help you to feel more awake and alert. Because chocolate contains much less caffeine than a cup of coffee, it may be more easily tolerated by those who are sensitive to caffeine.
Sugar Stabilizer: Unlike many sugary snacks, dark chocolate has a low glycemic index, so it won’t cause dangerous blood sugar spikes. In addition, flavonoids found in chocolate can help reduce insulin resistance, by encouraging your body to use insulin efficiently. Finally, because chocolate promotes healthy circulation, it can also protect against damage to the extremities caused by type 2 diabetes.
Tooth Toughener: In addition to being a stimulant, theobromine also hardens tooth enamel. So, far from causing cavities, eating dark chocolate can actually prevent them!