Chocolate beckons to us, especially around the holidays when the whole world seems designed to tempt our better judgment. Who knew that fighting back meant giving in? Rather than give up chocolate completely, consider instead how you can use it to your advantage. Chocolate, specifically dark chocolate that’s at least 70% cacao, has numerous health benefits when eaten in moderation. You heard me – moderation.
While I can’t give you the superpower of converting a half-pound milk chocolate Santa into anything other than love handles, I can give you 9 good reasons to eat a bit of dark chocolate a few times a week as a treat. Calming that sweet tooth doesn’t have to be a guilt trip! Keep reading to learn why you should give yourself a break.
1. A Boosted Mood
When you eat dark chocolate, you may feel happy, but it’s not all a matter of taste! Dark chocolate can send a jolt into the neural centers that program pleasure and actually improve our mood at the source. Cognitive enhancement due to dark chocolate has identifiable mechanisms proven in laboratory settings.
The word is “neuroplasticity” and it means that your brain can grow and adjust more easily. And it’s something dark chocolate can give you.
2. Increased Cognition and Memory
The same functional boost that improves your mood can also improve your recall memory. This means that the boost you get in focus and performance when you’re on chocolate isn’t an illusion! It’s science.
3. Hearth Health
Eating chocolate seems like the main ingredient in a recipe for failing health, but that’s not necessarily the case! The right dark chocolate can relax your blood vessels, which reduces blood pressure as a result. This reduces your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
4. Weight Loss
In addition to improving heart health, dark chocolate is a mild prebiotic, a form of fiber that can give a boost to your digestive health. It does this by giving good bacteria the go-ahead to grow and help you absorb nutrients. This can help you lose weight as a result.
5. Lower Inflammation
Free radicals surge in our bodies in response to uncontrolled inflammation, damaging our cells on a basic, functional level. Dark chocolate is part of a class of foods called antioxidants that snub free radicals and lower inflammation as a result.
Blueberries are another popular, powerful antioxidant, so if you can find dark chocolate-covered blueberries, you’ll be doubling up on this benefit.
6. Cancer Prevention
When free radicals and inflammation keep growing out of control, they can initiate processes that eventually lead to cancer. Dark chocolate flavonoids like quercetin play a role in free radical reduction and therefore, cancer prevention.
7. Lower Blood Sugar
You may think that the last thing you need when your blood sugar is high is more chocolate, but dark chocolate can actually reduce oxidative stress. This is a leading factor that causes increased insulin resistance, which is the perfect breeding ground for type 2 diabetes.
Eating dark chocolate a few times a week can reduce blood glucose levels and lower your risk for diabetes.
8. Balanced Cholesterol Levels
Dark chocolate can drop bad cholesterol at the same time that it raises good cholesterol. You may have heard these called “LDL” and “HDL,” respectively. Not unlike heart healthy fats like those found in olive oil and almonds, dark chocolate can improve your cholesterol balance.
However, many forms of chocolate are high in saturated fat, so chocolate is by no means a replacement for these healthier alternatives.
9. Skin Care
Dark chocolate contains a cocktail of minerals like copper and magnesium that can keep your skin elastic, shiny, and youthful. Chocolate may even prevent UV rays from damaging your skin when you go outside, though scientists still aren’t certain why.
Dark chocolate comes with a host of health benefits, some of which are directly linked to its deliciousness. From its antioxidant properties to its heart benefits, dark chocolate can be part of a healthy diet. You can combine your indulgence and your fitness by making sure your dark chocolate is at least 70% cacao. Make sure you don’t eat it every day!