Here are some of its multiple benefits:
– keeps brains healthy according to the study published this month. As Farzaneh A. Sorond, of Harvard Medical School, explains, “different areas of the brain need more energy to complete their tasks, they also need greater blood flow”. The chocolate noticeably improves blood supply for the critical areas of the brain (I am not sure if there are any noncritical ones). The study was performed on older people with the average age of 73, but I have not seen any studies showing that younger people cannot benefit from the same traits of cacao beans;
– lessens the probability of strokes. That was found during two studies performed in Sweden and having covered 37,103 men and 39,000 women. The more chocolate people ate, the less chances of having stroke they had. “The beneficial effect of chocolate consumption on stroke may be related to the flavonoids in chocolate. Flavonoids appear to be protective against cardiovascular disease through antioxidant, anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also possible that flavonoids in chocolate may decrease blood concentrations of bad cholesterol and reduce blood pressure,” said study author Susanna C. Larsson with the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden;
The study performed by a team at the University of California found that men and women consuming more chocolate suffer from depression or very close to it. As researchers note, “whether there is a causal connection, and if so in which direction, is a matter for future prospective study”. I could speculate that those suffering from depression are subconsciously trying to minimize its impact by eating more chocolate. That position is supported by the knowledge that chocolate increases the levels of endorphins (lessening pain and stress), serotonin (as an anti-depressant), phenylethylamine (makes you feel excited and alert), and, my favorite, dopamine (a neurotransmitter which leads to feelings of wellbeing). Moreover, chocolate contains chemicals that prolong the high level of dopamine in the body.
A French study conducted in 1999 named chocolate a risk factor for a colorectal cancer, another mega killer of the modern world. To be honest, another dozen of studies I have looked through, did not mention any link between colon cancer and chocolate, so I would not worry about this unless you belong to a high-risk group.
Please, note that all above mentioned health benefits are related to a real chocolate, not a milk chocolate. The real chocolate is bitter and has at least 50% of cacao. The more sugar or milk is added the less beneficial and more harmful the product becomes. The sweetest chocolates contain no cacao, but a great deal of fat and sugar that have an negative impact. Katherine Zeratsky with Mayo Clinic recommends the chocolate with 65% of cacao and, despite the exact threshold is yet to be specified, it would be wise to stick to her advice.
And, do not forget, too much water drowned the miller. Eating chocolate in pounds will take its toll on your stomach and liver and may cause migraines. I have seen recommendations to consume between one tenth and three ounces (3 to 84 grams) a day. Karin Ried, a research director for the National Institute of Integrative Medicine in Melbourne, Australia, and one of the leading chocolate researchers in the world eats 0.1 to 0.2 ounce (3 to 6 grams) of 50-70 percent dark chocolate a day, and I do not see a reason not to follow his advice. Finally, the taste of the healthy chocolate reliably prevents its overconsumption.