Is there such a thing as a guilt-free pleasure when it comes to food? Absolutely, and chocolate is one of them. This delectable, seemingly addictive food is produced from the beans of the cacao tree, whose official name is Theobroma cacao. Its scientific name reflects our long-standing love of chocolate that's endured for millennia (theobroma is the Greek word for "food of the gods").
Here are a few scientifically proven health benefits of consuming moderate amounts of heavenly, high-quality chocolate.
1. It improves your mood.
Chocolate has long been associated with love, and now scientists have discovered a possible chemical connection. Chocolate contains a compound known as phenylethylamine (PEA), a brain chemical that's released during moments of emotional euphoria. In addition to PEA, controversial findings suggest that chocolate contains pharmacologically active substances with the same effect on the brain as marijuana. The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, isn't found in chocolate, but another neurotransmitter called anandamide is. Like THC, anandamide is naturally produced in the brain and binds to the same receptors as THC, which may help explain why, while eating chocolate will not make you high, it's likely to engender some pleasant feelings or at least make you feel more relaxed and less anxious.
2. It's good for your heart.
One of the key areas of research into the benefits of chocolate consumption is its effect on cardiovascular disease. A growing amount of recent research suggests that: