The cocoa bean has many hidden benefits for both the inside and the outside – here we reveal some of them.
We humans love chocolate. But in addition to tasting good, research also shows that this brown delicacy also brings impressive health benefits for both inside and outside. When we say chocolate, we are of course talking about dark chocolate of good quality, with a high cocoa content from a quality chocolate factory, instead of the mass-produced chocolate bars that often contain sugar, an extremely small amount of cocoa, and a number of other ingredients.
The reason why chocolate has got its reputation of being a superfood is due to the main ingredient cocoa. According to the ORAC scale – a method for measuring antioxidants in, among other things, food – cocoa contains more antioxidants than both blueberries and raspberries.
“Cocoa refers to the raw bean or its cold-pressed form, while cocoa powder is the roasted powder that remains after the fat, the cocoa butter, has been squeezed out of the cocoa mass,”.
To get the most out of the chocolate’s health benefits, you should invest in chocolate with as much cocoa as possible, and the fewer additives the better. Stick to 15 grams of raw or dark chocolate a day for the most health benefits, without the risk of weight gain or blood sugar drop.
That is why this favorite candy has been given superfood status.
Do you want to take your training to the next level? Try a box of dark chocolate! Studies have found that dark chocolate improves both endurance and performance, thanks to a phytonutrient called epicatechin, which is found in cocoa.
Epicatechin raises energy levels and causes more nitric acid to be produced in the blood vessels, which improves blood flow and helps the body use oxygen more efficiently. In the study, cyclists who ate 40 grams of dark chocolate daily for two weeks could cycle both longer and harder, but with less effort. However, stick to dark chocolate, as milk chocolate contains less epicatechin.
1. Helps against menstruation pain
There is a reason why half of all women crave chocolate during their menstrual cycle. “Cocoa can increase the secretion of endorphins, which reduces the pain experience and makes the seizures easier to handle,” says Panagos. Chocolate also contains magnesium, which relaxes the muscles. The daily recommended intake of magnesium is 270 milligrams, so if you are struggling with PMS every month, you can try munching on a few squares of dark or raw chocolate. You can also boost your body with leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, which are also rich in magnesium.
2. Makes you feel good
According to research, you feel good about eating some chocolate when you are sad. “Cocoa contains a lot of tryptophan, which is a starting material in the body’s production of serotonin – the neurotransmitter that makes us happy and in a good mood.
Raw cocoa also contains phenylethylamine – a substance that gives that warm, loving feeling. Top the porridge with grated chocolate, munch on some cocoa nibs when the craving sets in or mix together four tablespoons of chia seeds, two and a half decilitres of coconut milk, a teaspoon of raw cocoa powder, a teaspoon of honey and a pinch of cinnamon. Yummy!
3. Boosts your IQ
Yep, chocolate can make you smarter! According to a study conducted at Northumbria University in the UK, brain performance improved when study participants drank a hot chocolate drink containing 500 milligrams of the antioxidant flavanols. Flavanols work in the areas of the brain associated with learning and memory, especially the hippocampus, and also reduce inflammation in the nerves. It is considered sufficient to eat dark chocolate once a week to improve their cognitive functions.
When researchers tested the cognitive function of three groups of older adults after drinking various drinks with different amounts of cocoa flavonoids (a group of chemical compounds that are active as antioxidants, among other things), all participants showed improvements in cognitive tests. Experts believe that flavonoids improve blood circulation in the body and brain, which may explain better brain function.
4. Turns back time
If a complexion without wrinkles is high on your wish list, chocolate can be helpful here as well. Cocoa contains large amounts of phenolic antioxidants – substances that fight oxidative stress and cell damage and keep us healthy and beautiful on both the inside and outside. Research published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology shows that chocolate rich in flavanols (bitter dark or raw chocolate) helps the skin to protect itself from harmful UV rays, reduces premature aging and reduces skin imperfections such as sun spots.
5. Improves heart health
Stopping the craving for sweets with a little chocolate can also be good for the heart, thanks to the fact that cocoa contains so much flavonoids. Flavonoids promote heart health by increasing blood circulation, which improves blood flow to the heart and lowers blood pressure. A pretty easy step to give your heart a little love, huh?
6. Fights fat
Believe it or not, eating chocolate can actually help you lose weight. In the best-selling book The Sirt Food Diet, authors Aidan Goggins and Glen Matten explain that chocolate is a special superfood that activates the sirtuins – a group of proteins in the body that shrink fat cells and kick-start metabolism. The diet they describe is about limiting calorie intake and eating a diet rich in sirtuins – something they call “sirt food” – to get the best possible weight loss results.
7. Chocolate contains more antioxidants than apples
If you look gram by gram, dark chocolate contains a higher concentration of antioxidants than apples, black tea and red wine. Antioxidants from natural sources such as cocoa counteract cell damage that leads to visible signs of aging and reduce the risk of developing certain chronic and debilitating diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
8. Chocolate can help reduce stress and anxiety
In a 2009 study, anxious and stressed people ate 40 grams of chocolate every day for two weeks, and then had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol when time ran out. Chocolate contains several bioactive compounds that increase the levels of anandamide, a substance that activates the brain receptors that are responsible for you to chill.
9. Chocolate can reduce the risk of heart problems
When researchers studied the diets of 55,502 adults (50-64 years), they concluded that compared to those who did not eat chocolate, the more diligent chocolate eaters (about two tablespoons six times a week) often had up to 20 percent lower risk of experiencing noticeable irregular heartbeats, which are associated with a higher risk of stroke or heart attack.
This is due to a combination of cocoa’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that make blood less tough and therefore reduces scarring in the tissue of veins, which reduces electrical dysfunction that can disrupt your heartbeat, according to researcher Elizabeth Mostofsky, writes Cosmopolitan.
10. Chocolate is linked to a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes
Eating a lot of sugar and fat can lead to type 2 diabetes, but researchers who looked at the long-term effects of eating chocolate came up with something surprising. They studied over 92,000 women for 13 years, and concluded that those who regularly ate moderate amounts of chocolate had a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those women who ate chocolate once a month. It was not revealed why this could be the case in that study, but other research suggests that compositions in chocolate can increase the sensitivity to insulin, which is good as insulin can help to get type 2 diabetes.