Chocolate has been a beloved and cherished treat for thousands of years. We give it as a gift, we eat it when we are sad, and we incorporate it into recipes to make other delicious food. Although chocolate has been criticized for its sugar content and contributor to weight gain, it actually has many surprising health benefits. Granted, most of these benefits only come from dark chocolate, and preferably in a moderate quantity, but chocolate is chocolate!
People often justify eating chocolate by saying, “it’s good for you!” which is not necessarily incorrect, but most people don’t actually know specifically how chocolate can impact your body. A study done on mice indicated that the flavanol epicatechin in cacao has an anti-aging effect, that is, it can stimulate the production of new mitochondria, which are very important to have more of as you get older. The study concluded that older mice that were fed flavanol-rich chocolate increased their exercise performance by 50%. A study done on humans regarding flavanol had a similar conclusion, more flavanol dense chocolate positively affected and increased the circulation of nitrogen oxide in the body.
Another benefit to eating dark chocolate is caffeine-like quality. Theobromine is a molecule found in chocolate that has effects similar to that of caffeine, that positively affect the body. This molecule plays a role in inhibiting phosphodiesterase, which increases the production of cAMP, promoting energy in the body. Unlike caffeine though, theobromine stays longer in the body, creating a longer lasting effect.
It is important to note that these effects have only been demonstrated with dark chocolate, where the flavanols and theobromine are highly concentrated. The milk in milk chocolate generally derails the positive effects previously listed, and white chocolate does not actually contain any cacao at all! While all chocolate is generally good for the soul, the next time you have some dark chocolate, you can be sure that you are doing your body a favor too
Post by Erina Taradai (Group 3)