Part of the myth surrounding chocolate is that if it tastes so good, it must be bad for your health. Not so, it seems. “Chocolate can be a component of healthy eating so long as it’s in moderation and not over-indulgence,’ says Dublin-based nutritionist Michele Van Valey. “I love dark chocolate and eat about one to two squares of it about five times a week.” Also recent nutritional research has identified many health benefits of chocolate. While that is no license to let loose on a massive chocolate binge, there are several solid reasons why we should not ban it from our diets just yet.
1. It stops bad moods
Chocolate is well known to be a mood lifter; as it stimulates the brainwaves and lowers the stress levels. We want chocolate in times of stress, anxiety, and pain. Chocolate is a natural pain killer and this could be the reason why lots of people stuff themselves with it when they are upset or angry. Actually they are unknowingly helping themselves out by eating chocolates. When your lower your stress levels, the more relaxed you become, which in turn is a plus for your health. Chocolate can soothe the savage beast in all of us (particularly women, and especially at a certain time of the month). So if you are feeling moody, irritable, or even depressed, eat a piece of some good chocolate to feel better.
2. It prevents illness
Chocolate and health may seem like an oxymoron. However, chocolate may be a lot better for your health than you ever imagined. Firstly it is a great source of energy. Also chocolates raise antioxidant levels in your blood, which helps to fight against foreign bodies that can cause illnesses. With less of these foreign bodies in your blood, you are less likely to get ill from viruses or other things that could affect your health. “There have been a lot of studies about the nutritional benefits. According to nutritionist Michele Van Valey, “flavenoids are said to boost cardiovascular health by relaxing blood vessels and improving blood flow in arteries and reducing blood clots.” It may also lower high blood pressure.” Dermatologists have also determined that chocolate does not cause acne.
3. It makes us feel good
What is it about chocolate that makes so many of us swoon? There is something undeniably irresistible about it. The word itself is sensual and romantic; never mind the creamy, silky texture, the deep, dark, colour, the exquisitely rich flavour, and the tantalising aroma. It’s believed that chocolate is an aphrodisiac and makes us feel good, which in turn makes for a healthy sex life. High levels of serotonin can produce feelings of elation by increasing serotonin levels. “If chocolate raises serotonin, which is the feel good hormone, it must bring happy feelings,” says Michele Van Valey. Chocolate lovers often describe the melting chocolate feeling as a moment of true ecstasy. It’s the cocoa butter in chocolate that gives it the rich and creamy texture that we love so much. So whether it is a good peanut butter filled chocolate, chocolate covered raisins, or a Terry’s chocolate orange, you will experience deep satisfaction as you indulge.
4. It is not bad for your teeth
Forget the myth that chocolate will ruin your teeth. As long as the chocolate consumed is not too sugary and sticky, it will not harm them. Studies have shown that chocolate causes less damage to teeth than other foods with the same amount of sugar. Apparently the nature of chocolate makes it easily rinsed from the mouth by saliva, leaving it in contact with teeth for a shorter time. Chocolate also contains tannins, which inhibit the action of cavity causing bacteria, perhaps by not allowing them to stick to the teeth. Cacao, the source of chocolate, contains antibacterial agents that fight tooth decay. “The cocoa content in the chocolate is what is considered the healthy component,’ says Michele.
5. It is a natural drug
Sometimes we get these intense cravings for chocolate. That is because chocolate contains a natural 'love drug'. Although you would have to eat several pounds at one sitting, chocolate has been found to contain chemical compounds that stimulate the same receptor sites in the brain as marijuana. Chocolate is not physically addictive, even though some people crave it. It tastes divine, which is reason enough to want to eat chocolate regularly. Even if you think of yourself as a chocoholic, your body will not experience withdrawal if you stop eating it.
While the above reasons should encourage any chocolate lover to keep indulging, there are particular chocolates that are better than others. This may not be news to some but others who have been happily consuming chocolate all of their lives are often unaware which chocolate treats are best.
• The higher the cocoa content the more beneficial the bar.
• Choose the darkest, richest chocolate you can find made with quality cocoa butter. Chocolatiers such as Lindt make dark chocolates containing 70 percent or more cocoa. The average chocolate bar contains about 40 percent.
• If you don’t like dark chocolate choose chocolate with nuts or orange peel.
• Avoid anything with caramel, nougat or other fillings as they are just adding sugar and fat which erase many of the benefits you get from eating the chocolate.
• Chocolate may taste good with a glass of milk but research shows washing your chocolate down with milk could prevent the antioxidants being absorbed or used by your body.
• 1 oz of chocolate a day is said to be a healthy amount.
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