Are you a chocoholic? Turns out your little addiction may save your life. A recent study found that those consuming the highest levels of chocolate had a 37 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29 percent reduction in stroke compared to those with lower chocolate intakes.
Though we should stick to moderate consumption of high-calorie chocolates, it’s hard to deny the cold hard facts that chocolate can be a healthy addition to our diets. Dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants that promote heart health and may prevent many cardiovascular-related conditions, but we’ve dug up more surprising health benefits. Here, five new ways to justify your chocolate craving.
Flavonols, compounds in chocolate with antioxidant-like properties, are thought to improve circulation, including blood flow to the brain. One 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.
Moms have forever warned of spoiling dinner by eating a treat beforehand. Turns out they were right. 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.
Chocolate contains phenethylamine, which triggers the release of endorphins. This reaction is similar to the one that people experience when they fall in love. Don’t believe us? 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.
Reach for a Hershey bar when you’re stressed? There’s a biological reason for that. Studies have shown that chocolate contains the compound anandamide that activates the same brain receptors as marijuana. No wonder a bite brings on bliss.
One study 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 researches postulate this may be due to the antioxidants in chocolate. Another 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.
For more great tips, pick up a copy of Prevention magazine or visit www.prevention.com.