We are excited to share one of our fave stories from Prevention here on FitSugar!This sweet treat may also boost brainpower, help you relax, and more!
By Mara Betsch, Prevention
Show your heart some love this Valentine’s Day by nibbling a few chocolates — and making them a regular treat throughout the year. A recent study found that those consuming the highest levels of chocolate had a 37 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29 percent reduction in stroke compared to those with lower chocolate intakes.
Though experts are quick to clarify that we should stick to moderate consumption of high-calorie chocolates, it’s hard to deny the cold, hard facts that chocolate can be a healthy addition to our diets.
Hundreds of studies have shown that dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants that promote heart health and may prevent many cardiovascular-related conditions, but we’ve dug up five more surprising health benefits. Read on for five new ways to justify your chocolate craving.
1. Chocolate May Help You With Math
Flavonols, compounds in chocolate with antioxidantlike properties, are thought to improve circulation, including blood flow to the brain. A 2009 study asked participants to count backward in groups of three from a number between 800 and 999. After drinking hot cocoa filled with flavonols, the participants were able to do calculations more quickly and accurately and were less likely to feel tired or mentally drained.
Learn a four more things chocolate can do for you after the break.
2. Chocolate Fills You Up
Moms have forever warned of spoiling dinner by eating a treat beforehand. Turns out they were right. Danish researchers gave 16 participants 100 grams of either dark or milk chocolate and two hours later offered them pizza. Those who consumed the dark chocolate ate 15 percent fewer calories than those who had milk chocolate, and they were less interested in fatty, salty, and sugary foods.
3. Chocolate Makes You Feel Better
Chocolate contains phenylethylamine, which triggers the release of endorphins. This reaction is similar to the one that people experience when they fall in love. Don’t believe us? Doctors at the Mind Lab in England asked six couples to let squares of dark chocolate melt in their mouths and then kiss, all while hooked up to brain and heart monitors. Both tasks made participants’ hearts pound and brains buzz, but chocolate doubled excitation rates in the brain’s pleasure center during the kiss, especially in women. Cocoa’s blend of sugar and caffeine produces a longer-lasting high, according to researchers.
4. Chocolate Helps You Relax
Reach for a Hershey's bar when you’re stressed? There’s a biological reason for that. Studies have shown that chocolate contains the compound anandamide, which activates the same brain receptors as marijuana. No wonder a bite brings on bliss.
5. Chocolate May Help You Live Longer
A study in the British Medical Journal found that candy consumption can help you live longer — almost a full year longer! — than those who abstain from the sweet stuff. Participants who ate candy one to three times a month had the lowest mortality rates of the group, and researchers postulate this may be due to the antioxidants in chocolate. A 2009 study also found that heart-attack survivors who ate chocolate were less likely to die than those who went without. Stick to a one-ounce serving to get your fix without wrecking your waistline.
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