Reasons to Eat Dark Chocolate (and not processed foods)

Happy Valentine’s Day! What would Valentine’s Day be without chocolate?  Just cards and flowers I suppose.  Well there is no reason to skip out on the chocolate this year, even if you’re on a diet or just trying to eat healthy.  The important things to do are keep it to a small amount and darker is better.

Here’s 10 reasons to include Dark Chocolate in your diet:

1.    It helps you exercise longer: A recent study found that eating a tiny amount (just 1 square) of dark chocolate before a workout helps fight fatigue, allowing you to work out longer.

2.    It’s stress-relieving: A study found that when highly stressed participants ate an ounce and a half of dark chocolate (the equivalent of a Hershey’s bar) a day for two weeks, the level of stress hormones in their bodies, dropped significantly. 

3.    It’s heart-healthy: A study found that dark chocolate increases blood flow, which helps keep your ticker in top shape.  Those who ate a small amount of chocolate a day had increased blood flow due to more-dilated blood vessels as well as better heart function.

4.    It’s good when you’re sick: If you can’t get the rest you need because of a nagging cough, try dark chocolate.  The theobromine, an ingredient in dark chocolate, has been proven to suppress a cough.

5.    It lowers blood pressure: A study found that eating a small square of dark chocolate a day helps regulate your blood pressure by increasing blood flow as well as dilating blood vessels and releasing nitric oxide.

6. Chocolate May Help You With Math:  Flavonols, compounds in chocolate with antioxidantlike properties, are thought to improve circulation, including blood flow to the brain. A 2009 study asked participants to count backward in groups of three from a number between 800 and 999. After drinking hot cocoa filled with flavonols, the participants were able to do calculations more quickly and accurately and were less likely to feel tired or mentally drained.

7. Chocolate Fills You Up: Danish researchers gave 16 participants 100 grams of either dark or milk chocolate and two hours later offered them pizza. Those who consumed the dark chocolate ate 15 percent fewer calories than those who had milk chocolate, and they were less interested in fatty, salty, and sugary foods.

8. Chocolate Makes You Feel Better:  Chocolate contains phenylethylamine, which triggers the release of endorphins. Doctors at the Mind Lab in England asked six couples to let squares of dark chocolate melt in their mouths and then kiss, all while hooked up to brain and heart monitors. Both tasks made participants’ hearts pound and brains buzz, but chocolate doubled excitation rates in the brain’s pleasure center during the kiss, especially in women. Cocoa’s blend of sugar and caffeine produces a longer-lasting high, according to researchers.

9. Chocolate Helps You Relax:  Reach for a Hershey’s bar when you’re stressed? There’s a biological reason for that. Studies have shown that chocolate contains the compound anandamide, which activates the same brain receptors as marijuana. No wonder a bite brings on bliss.

10. Chocolate May Help You Live Longer:  A study in the British Medical Journal found that candy consumption can help you live longer — almost a full year longer! — than those who abstain from the sweet stuff. Participants who ate candy one to three times a month had the lowest mortality rates of the group, and researchers postulate this may be due to the antioxidants in chocolate. A 2009 study also found that heart-attack survivors who ate chocolate were less likely to die than those who went without. Stick to a one-ounce serving to get your fix without wrecking your waistline.

[sources: Fitsugar here and here]

And an interesting follow-up to my previous posts about processed foods…

A researcher decided to examine what happens inside our bodies when we eat processed food compared to real food.  She had 2 subjects swallow a tiny capsule camera along with either a meal of ramen, gatorade, and gummi bears or homemade broth with noodles, hibiscus drink, and gummi bears made with fruit juice.

Watch this video to see what happens.  Warning: You may not want to watch this while, or shortly after eating.

Read the full article about this study here.