During the holiday season (and the rest of the year), chocolate is highly prized as a delectable treat. Historically, however, it was highly desired for its healthful properties.
“For several centuries in pre-modern Latin America, cacao beans were considered valuable enough to use as currency,” wrote Amanda Fiegl for Smithsonian.com. And she reports that anthropologists at the University of Pennsylvania say chocolate was consumed as a beverage as far back as 1400 B.C.
Here are six reasons to indulge in healthy chocolate the next time you’re craving sweets.
Chocolate may help lower cholesterol
Today, chocolate is often seen as a high-calorie treat that will lead to undesired weight gain. While it's often prepared with plenty of sugar and fat, dark chocolate and unsweetened cocoa powder have been shown to have cholesterol-lowering capabilities. In a recent study featured in Reuters Health, scientists found that when subjects consumed dark chocolate and cocoa powder along with almonds, their cholesterol levels dropped.
“Combining almonds with dark chocolate and cocoa also reduced small, dense LDL particles that are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” Reuters said researchers reported in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
Dark chocolate has improved insulin sensitivity
Most people with diabetes limit chocolate because of the sugar that usually goes with it. However, in certain forms, chocolate can actually aid those with diabetes, because of its flavanol content. Dark chocolate typically has twice as many flavanols as milk chocolate, so it’s obvious which one provides the greater benefit, such as increased circulation and lower blood pressure.
“Flavanols in chocolate can [also] increase insulin sensitivity in short-term studies; in the long run this could reduce risk of diabetes,” according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Dark chocolate labeled as having 70 percent (or higher) cocoa solids is the best choice to receive the benefits of flavanols.
Chocolate is rich in necessary nutrients
Chocolate in any form has the following nutrients often touted in superfoods, according to Healthline:
As nutritionists attest, vitamins and minerals are vital to human health and wellness; thus, consuming foods that are nutrient-rich is best. Chocolate can be one small part of a nutrient-rich diet that provides your body with everything it needs to flourish.
Chocolate can aid digestion
In addition to being dense in nutrients, dark chocolate is high in soluble fiber. You don’t need to be a scientist to know that soluble fiber in your diet is a good thing. However, consuming chocolate for this sole purpose isn’t recommended; instead, stick with plenty of fresh fruit and whole grains, and indulge in some dark chocolate now and then as a supplement. To get an idea of how much fiber chocolate contains, a 100-gram bar of chocolate has 11 grams of fiber. That’s a lot of chocolate for one sitting, so consume in smaller amounts.
Chocolate helps reduce stress
In addition to lowering blood pressure and improving overall blood flow, chocolate can increase blood flow to certain parts of the brain, which in turn can improve cognitive function. If your mind is feeling overwhelmed, increasing blood flow to the brain is always a good thing, especially as you seek to reduce stress. The stress response is also regulated by certain chemicals, such as serotonin, Nutritious Life said.
Even immune health can be aided by serotonin in the gut from chocolate consumption, according to Psych Central.
Try taking a break from work to eat a small piece of dark chocolate; savoring a bite or two along with going through a mindfulness exercise or taking just a minute to yourself can work wonders for the tightly wound.
Chocolate can improve your mood
There’s a reason chocolate is a common post-breakup food. Mood improves due to a variety of factors, but chocolate can definitely play a role in helping you get over a broken heart (or, conversely, can be tied to falling in love). The release of serotonin combined with the benefits of a food rich in antioxidants will give a mood boost to anyone. Magnesium, one of those important minerals found in chocolate, is also a proven anxiety reducer. Just make sure you’re not bingeing on candy; one ounce is generally a recommended amount, according to PsychCentral.
All these benefits come from higher-quality dark chocolate, so it’s important to satisfy your chocolate craving using the right sources. Fāv Chocolate started in the search for better health and in the process discovered a great tasting chocolate. It not only tastes great, but Fāv Chocolate is actually the healthiest chocolate. Fāv Chocolate’s is a patent-pending unique combination of ingredients that make this one-a-day chocolate a must for your healthy lifestyle. Learn more about health-boosting chocolate at Fāv Chocolate today.