Once used as currency in Mesoamerica, chocolate has come a long way since the first cultivation of cacao in early 1900 B.C. The Mesoamericans believed that cacao was a heavenly food that was the gift of the god of wisdom and made a bitter drink out of the cacao beans, chili peppers and corn meal. Once cacao beans were introduced to Europe in the sixteenth century, they began adding sugar to it making it resemble the chocolate we eat today.
So what kind of health benefits can you get from chocolate? Depending on the type of chocolate you are eating and the percentage of cocoa in it, these health benefits may increase or decrease slightly. Not only is chocolate delicious, but it has awesome health benefits, especially if the concentration of cocoa is 70 percent or higher.
Chocolate may boost your mood and your brain power! This study found that the naturally occurring polyphenols in dark chocolate increased calmness and elevated moods. Dark chocolate stimulates your brain to produce endorphins, the neurotransmitters that give you a positive feeling. (Hint: Endorphins are the ones that give you a “runner’s high” when you exercise. You can also produce them by eating hot peppers.)
Antioxidants protect your body from free radicals by preventing and repairing cellular damage within your body. When cells use oxygen, they naturally create free radicals which can damage your cell proteins, DNA, and cell membranes. The antioxidants found in fruits, nuts, and dark chocolate can help to repair these damages by neutralizing free radicals, making your cells happy again!
A study, published in the Science Daily, shows that diets high in flavonoids (in rich dark chocolate and cocoa powder) lowered LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and increased HDL (“good”) cholesterol. These flavonoids also had a positive effect on heart health by lowering blood pressure and improving flow to the heart and brain. Flavonols found in dark chocolate can help make blood platelets less sticky and able to clot, improving circulation and reducing risks of strokes.
Cocoa helps reduce stress hormones, which can then lead to less collagen breakdown in your skin & fewer wrinkles. The antioxidant powers can help protect your skin from UV damage (goodbye wrinkles), increase blood flow to your face (that glow you’ve always wanted), and fight free radicals which help with those pesky sun spots. The flavonols found in dark chocolate also help with skin hydration and thickness for more youthful looking skin!
What's your favorite dark chocolate health benefit?
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