Do we really need to convince you to eat chocolate? No, for most of us the worry is more about what to do to put the brakes on once we taste that fateful first morsel.
But self-indulgence aside, science does state that chocolate contains some agents that our bodies can absolutely use to maintain our health.
Sure, it would be better if our favorite versions of chocolate did not also come laden with fat and sugar. However, while the most natural version of chocolate (from cacau seeds) is the most healthy version for us, it is also the version we are least likely to eat.
This is because the things that make chocolate so good for us, in pure and concentrated doses are actually pretty horrible to taste. So, the key word here is “moderation”. Eat a little bit of the tasty goodness to wash down the underlying medicine.
As with everything else in nutrition and diet, the health benefits or risks of eating chocolate is up to interpretation and marketing. One major reason that chocolate is considered potentially healthy is due to a class of phytochemicals called flavonoids, in particular one called epicatechin.
Flavonoids are known to have circulatory system benefits. They are antioxidants, which are designed to attach to and remove free radicals from the bloodstream. Free radicals can harm cells everywhere, including skin cells and your body produces many ways to manage and deal with them or we wouldn’t be here. But once you get past the flavonoids, opinions diverge. This is due to the fact that people often eat chocolate in such large quantities that the good benefits of the flavonoids are easily outpaced by the negatives of the fat and sugar content.
So, as in most arguments about the health qualities of a particular food choice, the problem lever is activated when the “health food” is consumed in high quantities. And we know this is so incredibly easy to do when eating a chocolate bar. Too easy!
But chocolate contains other compounds that can have positive health effects.
Tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin, is present in chocolate. Serotonin is a neurochemical that elevates our moods and makes life seem generally OK. Some studies also suggest that chocolate stimulates the release of endorphins. These are the same chemicals that are released when one feels a “runner’s high”.
These things make us fall in love with chocolate even more! But that’s not all.
University of California researchers determined that mice given epicatechin could run 50% longer than mice who were solely given water in an endurance test.
This seems to be a great argument for eating more chocolate but, the amount they were given would equate to 1/6th of a one-ounce dark chocolate bar. Most of us would find that small amount to be too much of a tease to be worth trying, but hey, the science is the science.
In the end, the best thing to do for your health is to work really hard to ensure you have adequate hydration, wholesome nutrition, proper skin care. Once these items are taken care of, the next item should be to create a secret stash of halloween-sized dark chocolate bars you can use to reward yourself with each day for a job well done before you head to bed. But remember...You can only eat just one!