Health benefits of chocolate

by: Sandy Johnson, RDH

You’ve probably snacked on at least a few chocolate candies by now, and with Halloween coming up soon (and the holidays after that), it’s only going to get harder to resist. Well don’t fret too much, because chocolate may actually have some positive effects on your health.

Multiple studies in recent years have suggested that chocolate could contain all kinds of good stuff for your body, though be warned – nothing has been proven just yet.

Still, we thought it would be fun to look at some of the potential benefits that research has drummed up so far. At the very least, we can dream.

Chocolate could help reduce the risk of heart disease
According to the Mayo Clinic, flavanols in cocoa beans (cocoa is the main ingredient in chocolate) contain antioxidants that have been shown to reduce cell damage, which is a culprit in heart disease. Flavanols are more abundant in dark chocolate, so opt for that if you have the option, and remember to enjoy it in moderation. Besides the damage it can do to your teeth, chocolate is also packed with fat, sugar and calories that can lead to weight gain and other ill effects.

Chocolate may help increase brain function
A recent study from a team at Harvard found that some test subjects showed increased blood flow to the brain and higher brain function after drinking flavanol-rich cocoa for a month. No causal relationship was found between the cocoa and heightened brain function. But we’re keeping our fingers crossed.

Chocolate can be a good mood-booster
Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald, a nutritionist and writer for The Huffington Post, notes that, “Chocolate contains tryptophan, a precursor of serotonin, which can help with depression. Research also shows chocolate can increase dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. Chocolate also contains phenylethalmine, known as the ‘love chemical.’”

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