Chocolate has been an ancient tradition in many cultures for centuries and is often associated with love. One of the first links between chocolate and falling in love was established by the Mayans, who discovered a ritual beverage made from cocoa mixed with water, black pepper, vanilla and spices. Mayan brides and grooms shared the mixture during marriage ceremonies. This eurphoric elixir is also said to be associated with their god of fertility.
Although it’s always “sweet” to receive a delicious box of chocolates from the object of your affection, this treat also has many health benefits. Here are nine reasons why you and your honey should share a little dark chocolate this Valentine’s Day.
- Boost brain power: Dark chocolate contains the same type of antioxidants found in red wine and green tea, which have both been shown to boost brain activity. Researchers have found that those who consumed flavanol-rich chocolate, wine or tea scored significantly higher on cognitive tests than those who didn’t.
- Increase circulation: Epicatechin is a flavanol which has been shown to reduce hypertension, insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease. How? Epicatechins stimulate nitric oxide production within the body, which dilates blood vessels and reduces blood clots. Researchers have shown a direct relationship between the amount of flavanol-rich dark chocolate and epicatechin levels in the body. More epicatechin equals more antioxidant power.
- Eliminate winter cough: Dark chocolate contains theobromine, which has been shown to relieve cough symptoms by suppressing vagal nerve activity. A cousin to caffeine, but not as potent, theobromine can also help you feel more alert and awake. (Contrary to popular belief, the caffeine content in chocolate is quite low with approximately 26 mg per 1.5 ounces of chocolate compared to 160 mg per 8 ounces of coffee.)
- Lose weight: In one research study, those who enjoyed dark chocolate ate 15 percent fewer calories compared to those who ate milk chocolate, and reported feeling fewer cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods. Love what you eat and lose weight!
- Experience healthy, glowing skin: Flavanoids, natural antioxidants found in cacao, help protect plants from environmental toxins and repair damage. When we consume flavanoid-rich chocolate, those same benefits help our body fight toxins, free radicals and oxidative DNA damage. Chocolate facial anyone?
- Alleviate PMS: Craving dark chocolate during certain times of the month? There may be a reason. Dark chocolate contains magnesium, a mineral that may help alleviate PMS symptoms, including cramps, water retention, fatigue, depression and irritability.
- Lower LDL cholesterol: Studies have shown that subjects who ate about 1.25 ounces of dark chocolate a day had lower LDL levels compared to those who did not. The researchers attribute this to dark chocolates’ potent antioxidant content.
- Decrease Stress: Swiss researchers found that subjects who ate dark chocolate when feeling stressed were able to significantly reduce their stress hormones. (By the way, grabbing ice cream or milk chocolate when stressed doesn’t count!)
- Make happy babies: Really? Possibly. Women who ate dark chocolate during pregnancy reported that they were better able to handle stress than those who avoided dark chocolate. One Finnish study claimed happier babies of moms who ate dark chocolate during pregnancy.
Although there is no recommended ‘dose’ for dark chocolate, it’s perfectly fine (and, in fact, good for you) to eat a daily 1-1.5 ounces of dark chocolate a day. (Remember, choose dark, organic and dairy free as milk protein binds to the healthy components in cacao).
One ounce of dark chocolate from nicobella looks like this:
- One bag of chocolate munch (contains 1 oz chocolate, 1 oz nuts)
- Three dark chocolate vegan truffles
- Four peanut butter squares