Cocoa, which chocolate comes from, has long been dubbed "food of the Gods." Native to South America, cocoa and chocolate were enthusiastically embraced around the world hundreds of years ago, first as a delicious drink and later as an edible chocolate bar.
These days, chocolate lovers worldwide know how the treat can soothe the mood and enhance a feeling of well-being. But that's not the only health benefit.
Thanks to its rich amount of antioxidants, cocoa has attracted a great deal of research into its health advantages.
In fact, modern science in the last decade has revealed chocolate’s striking potential for reducing oxidative stress, which contributes to illness and aging, as well as helping with inflammation, anxiety, hyperglycemia, and insulin resistance. In other words: Could chocolate be the most delicious example yet of the food-as-medicine concept?
Here are some of the best examples of the benefits of cocoa from researchers around the world:
1. It helps keep your heart healthy.
A 2010 study found that eating chocolate seems to decrease the risk of heart disease, in part because it helps lower blood pressure. In a separate study, Australian researchers also discovered that eating dark chocolate can significantly reduce hypertension.
Cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate, may also help lower heart disease risk by boosting levels of HDL, the "good" cholesterol.
2. It boosts your mood.
Researchers in Australia found that consuming cocoa significantly increased calmness and contentedness in healthy adults. Plus, according to a 2015 study, chocolate also improved mental performance and fatigue in participants.
3. It's associated with maintaining a healthy weight.
A study by the University of California, San Diego, showed that adults who eat chocolate regularly actually have a lower body mass index than those who don't.
4. It could be anti-aging.
Recent studies indicate that cocoa flavanol in chocolate may reduce age-related cognitive dysfunction.
5. It helps keep your brain sharp.
Plus, another American study found that drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day may help older people keep their brains healthy and their thinking skills sharp.
6. It relieves stress.
In one study, dark chocolate intake lowered stress reactivity during a social stress test (like speaking in front of a group or doing a mock job interview.)
Another study found that eating one dark-chocolate bar (1.4 ounces) every day for two weeks actually lowered levels of stress hormones.
7. It helps prevent stroke.
Swedish and Finnish scientists showed that eating a moderate amount of chocolate each week may lower the risk of stroke in men.
8. It reduces the risk of diabetes.
British researchers discovered that the rich flavonoids from chocolate could offer protection from type-2 diabetes by lowering insulin resistance and bettering blood glucose regulation.
9. It could give you a burst of energy.
Dark chocolate improves exercise capacity and energy-generating mitochondrial function in older adults, according to one study.Want to learn more about delicious foods that can support your health? For more food-as-medicine inspiration, check out the recipes and meal plans I created for The Fat Resistance Diet.
Photo Credit: Stocksy