Valentines Day is upon us, and no matter who you’re spending it with, chances are you’ll be chomping down on a bit of chocolate. We’re here to tell you to go for it.
While chocolate can get a bad rap for contributing to weight gain, it also has some amazing benefits that you should seriously consider taking advantage of this Valentine’s Day. The basis of chocolate is the cacao bean, and while it doesn’t taste great on it’s own, add a bit of sugar and you’ve got a delicious treat. Cacao is the part of the chocolate that comes with some amazing health benefits.
Dark chocolate lovers rejoice – the higher percentage cacao your chocolate bar, the better for you it is. This means there’s less sugar and fat. On the other side of the spectrum, white chocolate isn’t really chocolate at all – most varieties have 0% cacao, meaning it contains a high percentage of sugar and butter.
So what, exactly, can cacao do for your health?
A small amount may help quell your sweet tooth. Having a square of chocolate each night will take the edge off, lessening your tendency to binge on sweets to satisfy sugar cravings. It may seem counterintuitive, but in this way, a bit of chocolate may contribute to weight loss.
In the same vein, one long-term German study found that a square of dark chocolate each day could lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by 39 percent. This lowering mechanism is in part due to the flavonoids present in chocolate, otherwise known as antioxidants. Flavonoids are known to increase the flexibility of veins and arteries, decreasing risk of particular diseases.
Chocolate may also cure a persistent cough. A recent clinical study revealed that the sweet treat contains a chemical called theobromine, which is known to calm the particular nerve in the brain that stimulates a cough.
Your favorite dessert can also have incredible effects on your brain. One researcher found that drinking hot cocoa rich in flavanols can boost blood flow to the brain for up to 3 hours, improving mental performance short-term. Chocolate can stimulate the brain long-term as well; one study from Oxford University found that those over 70 years old who ate flavanol-rich chocolate performed better on tests than those who didn’t. A recent study at Mount Sinai in New York also found that cocoa extract may block the nerve pathways found in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Will you be indulging in a Valentine’s Day treat today? We say you should – and actually encourage you to. Eat up, and enjoy!