Chocolate – The Secret Health Food
by Barbara Dearing
Have you heard? Chocolate isn’t the bad guy anymore! Sure, too much of even a good thing can become a bad thing, but when eaten in moderation, chocolate actually has a number of healthy benefits.
Made from the cacao bean, chocolate has vegetable origins– which means it contains some of the same health benefits as dark vegetables. The bean in its natural state contains flavonoids, an antioxidant, which helps protect the body against free radicals that can cause heart disease and other symptoms of aging. In fact, chocolate contains many different antioxidants, more than eight times the number of antioxidants found in strawberries. Just imagine the number of antioxidants in a chocolate-covered strawberry!
In addition to protecting against heart disease, flavonoids also help reduce blood pressure through the production of nitric oxide. It has also been shown that dark chocolate can reduce LDL, or bad cholesterol, by as much as ten percent.
Chocolate also contains three different kinds of fat, two of which are actually good for you! Like olive oil, chocolate contains oleic acid, which is a healthy monosaturated fat. The stearic acid found in chocolate is a form of saturated fat, but has not been shown to have an effect on cholesterol. Palmitic acid is the only bad fat found in chocolate, but it can raise cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. So only one-third of the fats in chocolate have a negative health effect.
In addition to physical benefits, chocolate also offers plenty of emotional benefits. It helps the body produce endorphins, which stimulate a feeling of pleasure and well-being. It contains the hormone, serotonin, which helps reduce the symptoms of depression. It also contains the chemical theobromine, caffeine, and other natural stimulants.
One of the best ways to enjoy the healthy benefits of chocolate is to eat it in as pure a form as possible. This means enjoying the darkest chocolate you can find with a cacao content of at least sixty-five percent. It’s also best to skip any nougat or caramel fillings, as these add enough fat and calories to wipe out the health benefits of the chocolate itself.
And remember, studies have shown that about 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate per day (or about half a bar) is sufficient to attain the health benefits. More than that, and you’ll likely be adding unnecessary fat and calories to your diet. But when eaten in moderation, chocolate can be enjoyed as one of life’s healthy pleasures.
The author writes for a number of online websites including Outdoor Chaise Lounge Chairs. She is a big fan of their Strathwood chaise lounger and its all-wood construction.
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