Chocolate. Just thinking about it can evoke happy feelings – what bliss awaits when you finally sink your teeth into anything chocolate! To top it off, it’s good for you! This mood-boosting superfood is rich in anti-inflammatories, antioxidants, antivirals, anti-everything. But don’t go reaching for any old chocolate bar. (Find out why milk chocolate is a health-buster.) Dark chocolate, with at least 75% cacao, is what packs the big nutritional punch. Not that you need convincing, but, here are five reasons why you should savor dark chocolate.
1. It’s good for your heart
While an apple a day keeps the doctor a way, an ounce of chocolate a day can keep your blood pressure at bay and even lower cholesterol. But the cardiovascular benefits don’t end there. The flavonols in dark chocolate produce nitric oxide, a substance that relaxes your arteries, improving blood flow to your heart. In this video, Kathy Freston, nutrition expert and author of the best-selling Veganist: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change the World, shares more benefits of dark chocolate.
2. It’ll keep your brain sharp
If you’re feeling a little cloudy, reach for some dark chocolate or have a cup of cocoa to clear things up. The increased blood flow doesn’t just benefit the heart, it does the brain good, too. Chocolate allows the blood vessels to relax and widen, allowing oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to reach the brain and fuel cognitive function. Not only that, but the cacao in dark chocolate contains theobromine, which promotes mental clarity and alertness. Studies have shown that people who enjoy chocolate regularly have sharper minds than those who don’t.
3. It keeps your skin healthy
The myth that chocolate causes acne is just that – a myth! Dark chocolate is good for your skin, so much so that it may even protect your skin from the sun, thanks to antioxidants that guard skin from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. Take the Skin Care Assessment and get recommendations for other ways to keep your skin young and beautiful.
4. It boosts your libido
Chocolate has long been known to be a sensual treat, but do you know why? The more than 400 chemicals in chocolate positively affect your body’s “good mood” chemicals, including serotonin, endorphins and even phenylethylamine, known to stimulate the release of dopamine into the body’s pleasure centers (think: happy ending!). Take the Chocolate Lovers quiz to learn more ways chocolate can benefit your health.
5. It’s part of a healthy diet
You would think chocolate is on the list of “do-not-eat” foods while dieting. But a National Institute of Health study showed that enjoying dark chocolate twice a week was linked to a lower BMI. Of course, portion control is key. Try this tasty, low-calorie chocolate chip cookie recipe to keep your waistline slim and your taste buds happy. Find more ways to eat for good health in our Healthy Eating Center.