Although we may want to eat foods that are healthy, and kale is definitely one of those foods, the healthiest are not always our favorites. Now, some new studies have demonstrated that one of our favorites might be really good for us. There are legitimate reasons, besides the fact that we absolutely love it, to eat chocolate. Three recent mega studies, those studies looking at large bodies of previously published work, report that chocolate may reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke, protect us from cancer and improve our mood.
A study reported in the British Medical Journal included 114,009 participants divided into three groups. Those who ate the most chocolate per day (2.2 oz.) – slightly more than an average chocolate bar – were associated with a 37 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29 percent reduction in stroke, compared to those with the lowest level of chocolate consumption.
In the journal Neurology the authors of a meta-analysis concluded that moderate consumption of chocolate might lower the risk of stroke in men. (Women were not included in the study).
A third study examining research done in the last decade supports those conclusions but adds that some studies indicated that eating chocolate may also improve the insulin sensitivity of diabetics and may inhibit the growth of cancerous cells in cancer patients. Feeding chocolate to rats also reduced their total body weights by inhibiting the function of various genes.
Another study from the University of Bern in Switzerland showed that the consumption of dark chocolate could reduce the effect of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, another justification for eating a moderate amount of dark chocolate daily. Eating chocolate also increases serotonin production, which is where chocolate gets its reputation as a mood elevator and love potion.
The benefits appear to come from the flavonoids in the chocolate that have antioxidant, anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory properties. The flavonoids seem to increase blood flow to the brain, decrease blood concentrations of LDL, the bad cholesterol, reduce blood pressure and reduce platelet clotting and inflammation. Chocolate contains minerals such as potassium and magnesium that act as stress reducers and a variety of good fats including oleic acid, which is one of the compounds found in olive oil.
Nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky, writing for the Mayo Clinic, suggests eating no more that 3 oz. of chocolate per day, which would add about 400 plus calories to your diet. Dark chocolate with a cocoa content or 65 percent or higher will provide the greatest value. You may not choose to eat 400 calories of chocolate every day but however much you do devour, enjoy every delicious, sumptuous, delectable bite and be guilt free and healthy! But you might also eat some kale.
Buitrago-Lopex, A. (2011, August 29). Chocolate consumption and cardiometabolic disorders: systematic review and meta-analysis. British Medical Journal. doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d4488.
Gomez-Juaristi, M. et al. (2011, March/April). Beneficial effects of chocolate on cardiovascular health. Nutricion hospitalaria. Doi 10. 1590/S0212- 16112011000200007.
Latif, R. (2013, March). Chocolate/cocoa and human health: a review. The Netherlands Journal of Medicine. 71(2):63-68.
Walters, R. et al. (2013, March). Chocolate consumption and risk of stroke: A prospective cohort of men and meta-analysis. Neurology. Doi: 10.1212/01.wnl.000042835.81656.e0
Wirtz P.H., von Känel R., Meister R.E., et al. (2014, June 3). Dark chocolate intake buffers stress reactivity in humans. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2014.02.580
Zeratsky, K. Can chocolate be good for my health? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://mayoclinic.com/health-chocolate/AN02060