While chocolate is ~*bAe*~ no matter what science says, new researchsuggests that chocolate eaters can also reap health benefits — besides the pure joy of indulging in the good stuff.
Here are more reasons why you should eat aaall the chocolate when cravings call.
1. It contains more antioxidants than apples. Gram for gram, dark chocolate, in particular, contains even higher concentrations of antioxidants thanapples, black tea, and red wine. Antioxidants from natural sources like cocoa counteract cell damage that leads to visible signs of aging and risk of developing certain chronic and debilitating diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
2. It may help reduce stress. Chocolate can alleviate anxiety, according to a 2009 study during which anxious people who ate 40 grams of chocolate (about five squares) every day for two weeks experienced lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than before the intervention. It’s not magic: Turns out chocolate contains several bioactive compounds that increase your levels of anandamide, a lipid that turns on the brain receptors responsible for chilling you out, according to a study published in the mid-’90s.
3. It could reduce your risk of heart problems. When scientists looked at the diets of 55,502 adults between the ages of 50 and 64 in a study recently published in the medical journal Heart, they found that compared to people who ate chocolate infrequently, those who dug in most often — i.e., ate a 1-ounce servingup to six times a week — had up to a 20 percent lower risk of experiencing a notable irregular heartbeat that’s associated with a higher risk of stroke or heart attack during a 14-year period. It’s the cocoa that’s at play here: A combination of cocoa’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties makes blood less sticky and therefore reduce tissue scarring in the veins, which lowers electrical dysfunction that can throw off your heartbeat, according lead study author Elizabeth Mostofsky, ScD, an instructor in epidemiology at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.
“Given the consistency of evidence across studies, as part of a heart-healthy diet, dark chocolate is a smart snack choice,” Mostofsky says.
4. It contains libido boosters. Althoughresearch suggests you’d have to eat a lotof chocolate to notice any difference in your sex life, chocolate still contains phenylethylamine (a chemical the body releases in response to physical attraction, which also increases your levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates the brain’s reward center). Meaning: While chocolate might not make your sex life extra hot, every bar you eat supports the cause. Can’t hurt!
5. It could make exercise extra effective.In a 2016 study, male cyclists who added about 1 1/2 squares of dark chocolate to their diets every day without tweaking their workouts improved their sprint speeds and stamina more than a control group who added white chocolate, which contains less epicatechin, a naturally occurring substance found in cocoa thatstudy authors think may improve blood flow, energy metabolism, and cardiac functioning.
6. It’s linked to lower type-2 diabetes risk. Although research shows that a sugary diet can promote weight gain that puts you at increased risk developing type-2 diabetes, researchers who looked at the long-term effects of chocolate consumption found something surprising: Among women who were tracked for 13 years, those who ate moderate levels of chocolate regularly were actually less likely to develop type-2 diabetes than women who ate it less than once a month, according to a 2017 studypublished in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. While it’s important to note that the study didn’t prove causation or explain how the magic happens, existingresearch suggests compounds in chocolate can enhance insulin sensitivity — a good thing, since resistance to insulin can contribute to type-2 diabetes over time.
7. It’s associated with better brain functioning. In a 2014 study, when researchers tested cognitive functioning among three groups of older adults before and after consuming drinks made with varying amounts of cocoa flavonols, phytochemical compounds, every day for eight weeks, all participants showed improvements in cognition testing. Experts chalk it up to the way flavonols improve blood circulation throughout the body and brain — which, in turn, could explain improvements in cognitive functioning. Although the most potent drinks contained the equivalent of about seven 300-gram chocolate bars, and no one is saying it’s healthy to eat that much chocolate per day, the results are promising for chocolate lovers.
The bottom line: Chocolate has magical powers and should be eaten whenever TF you want, case closed. And if you want to do your body a solid, stick with the darker stuff. The darker the chocolate — i.e., the less milk and sugar, and more actual cocoa it contains — the greater its benefits. (And FWIW, both dark and milk chocolates made in Europe are requiredto contain more cocoa solids thanchocolate made in the U.S. So feel free to spring for the fancy stuff — you know, for your health.)