1. Eating dark chocolate (1.4 ounces of it, to be exact) every day for two weeks reduced stress hormones, including cortisol, in people who were highly stressed, a study done at the Nestlé Research Center in Switzerland recently found. Experts believe it could be thanks to the antioxidants in chocolate. What is it about dark chocolate? The answer is plant phenols -- cocoa phenols, to be exact. These compounds are known to lower blood pressure. (Psst: Be sure to account for the 235 calories that 1.4 ounces of chocolate delivers—or you may be stressed to see extra pounds creeping on.)
2. Dark chocolate is very high in flavonoids, a type of antioxidant, which seems to protect the artery walls from becoming clogged with plaque and helps the body to maintain healthy blood pressure and blood flow. Dark chocolate is also high in sugar and in fat from cocoa butter; however, most of the fat does not does not affect cholesterol levels - but it is still high in calories. There is no daily recommendation for servings of dark chocolate. When adding chocolate to the diet, substitute it for other sweets, not for healthy foods. Eat pure dark chocolate, not milk chocolate or chocolate mixed with other ingredients. Dark chocolate does contain ingredients that promote relaxation, but it takes about 20 pounds to feel those effects.
- Lower Blood Pressure: Studies have shown that consuming a small bar of dark chocolate everyday can reduce blood pressure in individuals with high blood pressure.
- Lower Cholesterol: Dark chocolate has also been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) by up to 10 percent.
3. Doesn't Chocolate Have a lot of Fat?:
Here is some more good news -- some of the fats in chocolate do not impact your cholesterol. The fats in chocolate are 1/3 oleic acid, 1/3 stearic acid and 1/3 palmitic acid:
- Oleic Acid is a healthy monounsaturated fat that is also found in olive oil.
- Stearic Acid is a saturated fat but one which research is shows has a neutral effect on cholesterol.
- Palmitic Acid is also a saturated fat, one which raises cholesterol and heart disease risk.
That means only 1/3 of the fat in dark chocolate is bad for you.
Balance the Calories:
This information doesn't mean that you should eat a pound of chocolate a day. Chocolate is still a high-calorie, high-fat food. Most of the studies done used no more than 100 grams, or about 3.5 ounces, of dark chocolate a day to get the benefits. One bar of dark chocolate has around 400 calories. If you eat half a bar of chocolate a day, you must balance those 200 calories by eating less of something else. Cut out other sweets or snacks and replace them with chocolate to keep your total calories the same. A hint: Don't replace healthy foods with chocolate. Most people's diets have plenty of sweets. Switch those for some chocolate if you're going to try the truffle treatment. Just remember to balance the calories! A 100-gram serving of Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Bar has 531 calories, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If you ate that much raw apple you'd only take in 52 calories. But then, you'd miss out on the delicious blood pressure benefit.
Chocolate Tip 2 - Taste the Chocolate:
Chocolate is a complex food with over 300 compounds and chemicals in each bite. To really enjoy and appreciate chocolate, take the time to taste it. Professional chocolate tasters have developed a system for tasting chocolate that include assessing the appearance, smell, feel and taste of each piece. AKA...savor it. The more you do, the longer that little bit lasts and the happier you will be.
Chocolate Tip 3 - Go for Dark Chocolate:
Dark chocolate has far more antioxidants than milk or white chocolate. These other two chocolates cannot make any health claims. Dark chocolate has 65 percent or higher cocoa content.
Chocolates made in Europe are generally richer in cocoa phenols than those made in the U.S. So if you're going to try this at home, remember: Darker is better.
Chocolate Tip 4 - Skip the Nougat:
You should look for pure dark chocolate or dark chocolate with nuts, orange peel or other flavorings (YES!). Avoid anything with caramel, nougat or other fillings. These fillings are just adding sugar and fat which erase many of the benefits you get from eating the chocolate.
Chocolate Tip 5 - Avoid Milk:
It may taste good but some research shows that washing your chocolate down with a glass of milk could prevent the antioxidants being absorbed or used by your body.
Taubert's team signed up six men and seven women aged 55-64. All had just been diagnosed with mild high blood pressure -- on average, systolic blood pressure (the top number) of 153 and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) of 84.
Every day for two weeks, they ate a 100-gram candy bar and were asked to balance its 480 calories by not eating other foods similar in nutrients and calories. Half the patients got dark chocolate and half got white chocolate.
Those who ate dark chocolate had a significant drop in blood pressure (by an average of 5 points for systolic and an average of 2 points for diastolic blood pressure). Those who ate white chocolate did not.
In the second study, Serafini's team signed up seven healthy women and five healthy men aged 25-35. On different days they each ate 100 grams of dark chocolate by itself, 100 grams of dark chocolate with a small glass of whole milk, or 200 grams of milk chocolate.
An hour later, those who ate dark chocolate alone had the most total antioxidants in their blood. And they had higher levels of epicatechin, a particularly healthy compound found in chocolate. The milk chocolate eaters had the lowest epicatechin levels of all.
So...this means that if people have at least 1oz of DARK chocolate a day, (I recommend 70% or more) this world will be a happier place! But remember to trade out those silly sweets like cookies or brownies that are more fattening, for this amazing little square of heaven.