If you received the gift of chocolate, especially dark chocolate, for Valentine’s Day, enjoy with a clear nutritional conscience.
Chocolate with a high cacao content is quite nutritious. It contains fiber, iron, magnesium, and copper as well as 98% of the manganese you need daily, according to Healthline. But since chocolate is high in calories and often contains added sugars, it should be consumed in moderation.
Here are some of the key health benefits of chocolate:
- Improves blood flow and blood pressure. The flavanols in dark chocolate stimulates the lining of the arteries to produce nitric oxide which helps the vessels relax. This helps improve blood flow and reduce blood pressure according to many controlled studies.
- Increases brain power. A study published in the journal Scientific Reports found that when healthy adults consume flavanol-rich cacao either in powder form or in dark chocolate—70% is best—their brain receives increased oxygenation, according to an article by Drs. Mehmet Oz and Michael Roizen. Participants in the study had 3 times more oxygen delivered to their brain than those who consumed low-flavanol cacao.
- Boosts the immune system. Dark chocolate is chock full of antioxidants that, according to one study, increases the T-cells which are the immune markers in your blood, says Sue Van Rues, a functional nutritionist with Boulder Nutrition. The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology, says that the polyphenols found in cacao influence the immune system.
- Improves insulin sensitivity. According to research published in the National Institutes of Health, A Japanese study found that men had a 35% reduced risk of diabetes when they consumed chocolate weekly. Scientists say that cacao was able to lower insulin resistance over a period of a few weeks.
- May reduce the risk of heart disease. According to Healthline, the compounds found in dark chocolate impede the LDL cholesterol from oxidizing, which causes less dangerous plaque to lodge in the arteries. Research shows that cacao slashed the risk of heart disease by half. One study found that eating chocolate a few times a week lowered the risk of having calcified plaque in the arteries by 32%.
- Spices up your love life. There is a reason why romance and chocolate are linked, says Van Rues. The famous Aztec leader Montezuma was one of the first to discover the aphrodisiac power of cacao. A study published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry called chocolate “the queen of aphrodisiacs, for its abundance of compounds that enhance the sexual experience.
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