We are so incredibly blessed to feature Dr. Mercola's amazing team on our blog today! Dr. Mercola is a champion of wholistic nutrition and healthy living. He has inspired millions of people to pursue their health goals and we are so moved by his mission! Today, we are talking about none other than our favorite food -- chocolate!
How Chocolate Can Be Good for Your Heart
Chocolate is one of the most popular and well-loved foods around the world, and giving it up is difficult for many people. Fortunately for chocolate lovers, plenty of studies vouch for the health benefits of chocolate.
It is important to note that the chocolate in question here is raw cacao or dark chocolate – not milk chocolate.
Unprocessed chocolate contains flavonols, which have antioxidant properties that can help eliminate free radicals.
Can Chocolate Promote Cardiovascular Health?
Years ago, researchers found that small amounts of dark chocolate can support your heart. The researchers discovered that, like aspirin, chocolate possesses a biochemical effect that decreases the clumping of platelets, which cause blood to clot. Platelet clumping can be fatal if the clotting blocks a blood vessel.
Another study in 2008 found that raw cocoa powder can lower the risk of cardiovascular problems in diabetics. Participants were given a special cocoa drink (with high levels of flavonols) to drink for one month. An improvement was seen in the diabetics’ blood vessel functions, which was impaired. This change was similar to those observed who exercised or used diabetes medications.
In a more recent study, researchers discovered that chocolate contains the compound epicatechin, a flavonoid that can help protect your brain after a stroke by stimulating two pathways that shield your brain’s nerve cells from damage. Epicatechin and similar antioxidants can be found in tea, red wine, and certain fruits and vegetables.
Other Benefits of Chocolate
Take a look at these other chocolate benefits:
- Resveratrol, a potent water-soluble polyphenol, is produced by certain fruits and vegetables, most abundantly in muscadine grapes. Recent findings have shown that resveratrol can be obtained in raw cacao.
- Raw cacao can contribute to a healthy sex life because of its “aphrodisiac” properties. Cacao contains anandamide or the “bliss molecule,” along with compounds that prevent your body from breaking down this molecule.
- At the same time, cacao is a great source of magnesium, phosphorus, antioxidants, arginine, and methylxanthines. It also has phenylethylamine or the “love chemical,” which induces the release of dopamine in your brain during sex.
- Chocolate is a natural painkiller. A researcher from the University of Michigan found that consuming chocolate can help release natural opiates in your brain that help relieve pain.
- Eating chocolate can also yield a psychoactive effect, helping increase your production of endorphins or “feel good” hormones in the brain.
- A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry rated different types of chocolate according to their antioxidant content. Cocoa powder has the highest amount, then unsweetened baking chocolate, dark chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and finally, milk chocolate.
Recommended Types and Amounts of Chocolate
While one of the studies confirms the antioxidant properties of milk chocolate, this type of chocolate should be avoided. The milk added to chocolates interferes with your body’s ability to absorb nutrients in the chocolate. Milk chocolate also contains loads of sugar and has less than half of the flavonoids of dark chocolate after being processed.
Another concerning matter about processed milk chocolate is its high lead content. There is little information on where the lead comes from. Researchers speculate that it’s from the shipping or the manufacturing process. You can limit your risk of exposure by consuming only dark, organic, unprocessed chocolate.
Other than limiting your chocolate to the unprocessed variety, consume it only if you’re healthy and in moderation. People with disorders related to insulin resistance should avoid any form of chocolate altogether.
You should only eat about 6.7 grams of dark chocolate per day, or less than half a bar a week. This small amount may produce significant effects against inflammation and cardiovascular disease.
About the Author:
Katrina Pascual writes for Mercola.com, and is researching wholesome foods that naturally promote cardiovascular health. She is also researching wholesome herbal supplements, such as curcumin and tulsi, and how they affect people’s overall health.