Sunday, 21 October 2012

Are You A Chocoholic?

Do not panic — chocolate can be good for you. Studies show that eating chocolate, primarily dark chocolate, may contribute to improved cardiovascular health. That's because chocolate comes from cacao beans (or cocoa beans), which grow on the cacao tree and are full of natural plant nutrients. It has the highest percentage of cocoa solids, therefore more flavanol antioxidants. Chocolate is essentially food of the earth.


Antioxidants
Scientists theorize that plants naturally produce antioxidants to help them survive harsh growing conditions and to protect them from environmental stress.  These same compounds can aid the humans who eat the plants too.  Recent studies suggest that the antioxidants in foods may reduce the risk of many kinds of illness, from heart disease to cancer.  Antioxidants like those found in dark chocolate and cocoa have also been linked to some of the hallmarks of good cardiovascular health such as enhanced blood flow, healthy cholesterol levels and, in some cases, reduced blood pressure.
Dark chocolate and cocoa contain high levels of cell-protecting antioxidant compounds.  Two tablespoons of natural cocoa have more antioxidant capacity than four cups of green tea, 1 cup of blueberries and one and half glasses of red wine.
Antioxidants work by protecting your cells from damaging molecules called free radicals.  Free radicals are basically unstable oxygen molecules that can trigger changes in the structure of normally healthy cells.  This damage is thought to be an underlying cause of many chronic diseases.  Antioxidants neutralize free radicals.  Free radicals are a natural by-product of life, but as we get older the natural antioxidants our body makes to fight them off begin to decline.  The best way to recharge your antioxidant power is to get them through your diet.
The kinds of antioxidants found in chocolate are called polyphenols, a large class of molecules found in fruits and vegetables like oranges, soybeans and berries.  Dark chocolate and cocoa are particularly high in a sub-class of those compounds called flavanols, which are also found in red grapes and tea, hence the well-known benefits of red wine and green tea.
The reason dark chocolate and cocoa rank so high is that the antioxidants are very concentrated. More than 10% of the weight of the dry raw cacoa beans consists of polyphenols alone.
Heart health
Good heart health depends on wide open, flexible arteries that are free of blockages and can deliver blood efficiently throughout your body.   Studies have shown that consumption of dark chocolate or cocoa may help with all those vital functions.  Natural compounds in cocoa and dark chocolate may aid the cardiovascular system by improving blood flow and reducing blood pressure. Scientists have also discovered that cocoa may help maintain healthy arteries.  Both cocoa and dark chocolate have been shown to help your arteries relax, widen and maintain their flexibility, which may aid in lowering blood pressure.
Chocolate contains little or no cholesterol. Any cholesterol comes from the addition of milk ingredients. Remember: chocolate is a plant-based food and plants do not produce cholesterol.
Blood sugar
Despite its "sweet" reputation, chocolate has a low glycemic index — the measure of a food's impact on blood sugar levels. This means that eating chocolate, unlike other candies or sweet foods, will not cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash. This up-down, yo-yo effect can wreak havoc on your mood and energy level, and even throw off your natural hunger cues, making you feel hungry when you really aren't.
Vital Minerals
As plant-based foods, cocoa and chocolate naturally contain minerals that are vital for your health, especially your heart:
·         Copper:  One average dark chocolate bar has 14% of the daily requirement for copper, a critical mineral that aids in the absorption of iron and is a key component of enzymes that form skin-strengthening collagen.  An unsweetened baking chocolate bar delivers a whopping 22.5% of the daily requirement.

·         Magnesium:  One average dark chocolate bar can deliver nearly 12% of your daily magnesium requirement. Studies show magnesium may help reduce the risk of several chronic illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.  Symptoms of magnesium deficiency can include leg cramps, migraines, fatigue, loss of appetite, depression, nausea and vomiting.

·         Potassium:  Cocoa and chocolate are natural sources of potassium, which studies have shown to be a key factor in affecting blood-pressure and stroke. The more potassium present in the body, the less likelihood of developing high blood pressure or stroke.

·         Calcium:  One serving of milk chocolate provides approximately 8 % of the required daily allowance for calcium. Calcium is the chief supportive nutritional compound for your bones and your teeth but may also aid in weight maintenance.

·         Iron:  Cocoa and chocolate naturally contain iron, a key component of overall good health.  On average, a dark chocolate bar has nearly 7% of the required daily allowance.  The main function of iron is to help carry oxygen from the lungs to the muscles and other organs. If your body is low in iron, fatigue, irritability and headaches may occur. If the iron deficiency becomes significant, you can become anaemic.
Brain food
Eating chocolate makes us feel good. But why exactly?  This is what they do know: chocolate contains more than 500 natural chemical compounds, some of which have been categorized as mood-elevating and pleasure-inducing. The following is a list of the compounds believed to have some effects on the brain:
·         Theobromine:   Chocolate is one of nature's most concentrated sources of theobromine, a mild, natural stimulant and molecular "cousin" of caffeine.  However, theobromine does not strongly stimulate the central nervous system, nor does it have the same "eye-opening" power as caffeine. Theobromine has also been shown to reduce coughing and has been used in "natural" cough medicine preparations as a cough suppressant.

WARNING:
Chocolate can be dangerous for many animals, but especially dogs, because it contains theobromine, a stimulant naturally occurring in the cacao bean.  Consumption of theobromine can lead to toxicity and even death in some animals.  It also may be dangerous for cats to ingest theobromine.   However, they are not as much a worry as dogs, who are known for their robust eating habits.  Cats are more discriminating in their diets and are unlikely to devour a significant quantity of chocolate.

·         Caffeine:   Chocolate contains relatively small amounts of caffeine, about as much as a cup of decaffeinated coffee.  A 1.5 ounce milk chocolate bar has 11 mg of caffeine, while a similar-sized dark chocolate bar has 27 mg of caffeine. In contrast, a 12-ounce mug of coffee has 200 mg.  

·         Phenylethylamine (PEA):  This compound may be responsible for some of the pleasurable feelings you get after eating chocolate because it releases natural feel-good chemicals called endorphins in your brain.  PEA is released by the brain when people are falling in love. Perhaps this explains why chocolate and Valentine’s Day are so closely linked.
Is chocolate addictive?
A chocolate craving is really just a desire for pleasure, and has no physiological cause. In one study, people who reportedly craved chocolate were given cocoa, which contains all of the compounds and nutrients believed to cause chocolate cravings. However, their "cravings" were only satisfied by pieces of white and milk chocolates, which contain far fewer of these compounds. This indicates that people may have a strong desire for the taste of chocolate, but this desire is not connected to a physiological dependency.
There's no getting around it — chocolate is high in fat and calories but eaten in moderation, chocolate can easily fit into a healthy, balanced diet. So enjoy — in moderation.  Just like everything else in your life.

4 comments:

  1. Mmmm it's usually the moderation thing that causes issues. Great post, though I migh t have to go out and get some!!!!

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    1. Me too haha but it sounds like "A couple of pieces a day, keeps the doctor away" so thats great !

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  2. Replies
    1. Yay I agree lol xxx

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