Sweet Science for a Sweet Tooth
You’re probably surprised I’m writing about the health benefits of
chocolate in December rather than in February. If you’re like me, chocolate is
all around you this time of year. That said, knowing the healthiest chocolate
and its health benefits in moderation can be very helpful; not to mention, lessen
our guilt in its indulgence...
Dark chocolate, and the least processed, is the healthiest. Today,
raw cacao products have become vogue provided they don’t contain high amounts
of fillers or high fructose corn syrup for instance.
A 2011 Swedish study
found that women who ate more than 45 grams of chocolate a week had a 20
percent lower risk of stroke than women who treated themselves to fewer than 9
grams of this sweet indulgence.
The following should
provide you enough “evidence” to indulge in that dark, rich, creamy, decadent delight
without all the guilt.
Boosts Heart Health
Regular chocolate eaters welcome a host of benefits for their hearts, including lower blood pressure, lower "bad" LDL cholesterol and a lower risk of heart disease by as much as 10 percent by some studies.
We know antioxidants
are health-enhancing. Cacao contains antioxidants that are said to work like brushes
to sweep plaque from the arteries.
One of the reasons
dark chocolate is especially heart-healthy is its inflammation-fighting
properties, which reduce cardiovascular risk. NOTE: Remember, moderation,
moderation, moderation. For those with chronic inflammatory disorders like Fibromyalgia,
Lupus, Scleroderma, etc., the chocolate is healthy but the sugar is NOT!
Fills You Up
Because it's rich in
fiber, dark chocolate can actually help keep you full, so you'll eat less,
according to Dr. David Katz, founding director of Yale University's Prevention
Research Center as stated to The Huffington Post. Regular chocolate
eaters might do themselves a favor by treating themselves to a bite instead of
snacking on "11 other things first" he said.
Dark chocolate does
the trick much better than milk chocolate, according to a small study from the
University of Copenhagen, and may even reduce cravings for sweet, salty and
fatty foods. So, when you have that craving to snack, maybe dark chocolate isn’t
such a bad idea?
May Fight Diabetes
A small Italian study from 2005
found that regularly eating chocolate increases insulin sensitivity, thereby
reducing risk for diabetes. NOTE: Again, caution is paramount if you’re a
diabetic or have a blood sugar imbalance. Monitor your blood sugar carefully to
see what type and quantity of dark chocolate is best suited for your body and
your blood sugar levels.
Protects Your Skin
necessarily cause breakouts; dark chocolate is actually good for your skin. The
type of antioxidants, called flavonoids, found in dark chocolate offer some
protection from UV damage from the sun. And no, that does not mean you can skip
the sunscreen! Many times I’ve found that it isn’t the chocolate, per se, that
causes breakouts but the added fillers…you get what you pay for, buy quality
Can Quiet Coughs
Can't stop coughing?
An ingredient in chocolate called theobromine seems to reduce activity of the
vagus nerve, the part of the brain that triggers hard-to-shake coughs.
In late 2010, the BBC reported that scientists were
investigating creating a drug containing theobromine to preplace cough syrups
containing codeine, which can have risky side effects including dependency and
There's no denying
that indulging your sweet tooth every once in a while feels great. Enjoying
food is part of enjoying life, points out wellness editor, Dr. Patricia
Fitzgerald. Chocolate eaters also report feeling less stressed.
serotonin, a natural anti-depressant, thereby stimulating endorphin production
to create feelings of happiness and well-being. On study found that melting
chocolate in the mouth produced feelings of pleasure longer than passionate
kissing; explaining why many people reach for chocolate when they’re depressed.
Improves Blood Flow
anti-clotting, blood-thinning properties that work in a similar way to aspirin,
which can improve blood flow and circulation. Note: If you feel cardiac stress
or possibly symptoms of a heart attack, don’t reach for the chocolate, reach
for the aspirin and get medical care immediately.
Researchers at Johns
Hopkins University found dark chocolate can protect the brain after a stroke by
its ability to shield nerve cells from further damage.
Helps Fight Cancer
found chocolate to be one of the best cancer-fighting foods along with foods
like red wine, garlic, and tea – it works by inhibiting cell division and
Good for Oral Health
that the theobromine in chocolate prevents tooth decay by eliminating streptococcus mutans, a bacterium found
in the oral cavity that contributes to tooth decay and infections.
Contributes to Health and Longevity
A Dutch study
followed 200 men over 20 years and found that the ones who consumed large
amounts of chocolate lived longer and had lower overall disease rates than
those who ate little or no chocolate.
A study of the Kuna
Tribe in Panama, conducted by Harvard University, found similar findings in
health and longevity as those in the Dutch study. The Kuna consumed large
amounts of raw cacao daily and they had lower overall diseases and a longer
life expectancy than neighboring tribes who did not consume as much raw cacao.
If you need further
evidence to make your personal case for consuming chocolate, the world’s
longest-lived person, Jeanne Louise Calment, lived to the age of 122 and
ascribed her longevity in part to her consumption of 2.5 pounds of dark chocolate
Because of chocolate's
ability to improve blood flow, in particular to the brain, researchers at the
University of Reading hypothesized in a small 2011 study that chocolate may
also increase blood flow to the retina, thereby giving vision a boost –
something baby-boomers can especially use, wait until you share this with your
Boosts Brain Power
That boost of blood
flow to the brain created by cocoa's flavanols seems to make people feel more
awake and alert, and, in a small British study, perform better on counting
tasks – darn, wish I would have known that before taking my finals!
California’s Salk Institute found that epicatechin, a chemical in dark
chocolate, improved memory in mice.
High in Nutrients
Cacao is higher in
magnesium than any other plant. We know magnesium is an important mineral that
helps in regulation of the digestive, neurological, and cardiovascular systems.
In modern economies many people are magnesium deficient – adding magnesium-rich
dark chocolate can help improve overall health.
If you needed any more reasons to justify consumption of chocolate, this article provides scientific
validation for us to consider the type of chocolate we consume and the amounts
necessary for long term health benefits…ah, sweet science to the rescue!
Dr. Gloria is a doctor of natural health and nutrition, a certified
dental professional, a homeopath, a certified dietary supplement counselor, an
EcoErgonomist© and Wholistic Rejuvenist©.
She is internationally respected as an authoritative influence in
uncovering the causes, effects and drug-free solutions for leaky gut syndrome,
fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, digestive and chemically-induced immune system
disorders, and disorders that defy conventional diagnosis and treatment.
She is respectfully known by the thousands of clients she’s
assisted as their “health detective” (and is host of a radio show by the same
name) because she leaves no clue uncovered in order to provide her clients and
readers with individualized protocols to rebuild their health.
As an EcoErgonomist, environmental health consultant, health
journalist and medical researcher, she teaches, lectures and consults worldwide
with doctors and dentist for pre- and post-procedural protocols, nutraceutical
companies for product formulation and consumer education, and the spa industry
for product formulation, environmental modifications to create green spaces,
and for client educations services.
She maintains a private practice – consulting in nutritional
biochemistry, detoxification, environmental health, nutrition and lifestyle
modifications. She designs custom wellness plans (nationally and
internationally) via telephone and Skype™ (she even places the call within 13
countries) or onsite at her office in Gig Harbor, WA (just south of Seattle).
Dr. Gloria has written over 1,700 articles for newspapers, health
magazines and blogs, and trade journals
published in the U.S., Canada, South America and Asia. She is author of 13
books and 8 courses for post-graduate education.
As a keynote presenter and seminar leader she speaks on varied
disciplines of wholistic health as well as post-graduate courses she created to
become Certified Wholistic Rejuvenists (CWR). Her work has taken her throughout
the U.S. and to more than eleven countries. Her Wholistic Skin & Body
Rejuvenation (WSBR) courses are accredited in medical schools and teaching
hospitals in Europe, Latin American and Asia.