5 health benefits of chocolate

As Valentine’s Day approaches, many people are buying chocolaty treats for their loved ones.

Of course everyone knows that eating too much chocolate could lead to weight gain. But, when eaten in moderation, chocolate can have some benefits for your overall health, said Carla Metzler, a clinical dietitian at Fort Hamilton Hospital.

Here are five health benefits of chocolate:

1. “Heart healthy: Some studies with dark chocolate have shown that the type of fat in chocolate may actually increase the good HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and will not increase the bad LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol in the blood. The saturated fat in chocolate comes from stearic acid, which is converted in the liver into a more heart healthy monounsaturated fat. Oleic acid is another fat found in chocolate, which is also a monounsaturated fat.”

2. “Reduction in blood pressure: A recent Harvard study concluded that eating dark chocolate may have a reduction benefit on blood pressure. This is likely due to the flavanols found in chocolate that contain at least 60 to 70 percent cocoa, which appear to result in mild blood vessel dilation. Another recent study published last year reported that individuals who ate 3.5 ounces of chocolate per day saw a two to three point drop in both systolic and diastolic blood pressures.”

3. “Reduced risk for stroke: A recent Swedish study suggested that individuals who had an increased cocoa-rich chocolate intake of at least 1.8 ounces per week had a resulting 17 percent reduction in their risk for stroke. One of the researchers indicated that the beneficial effects of chocolate intake on stroke risk may be related to the flavonoids in chocolate.”

4. “Anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties: Compounds called phenols are present in cocoa-rich chocolate. These antioxidants are the same as the ones found in red wines. One researcher indicated that the darker the chocolate, the more phenols it contained. With the more pure and darker chocolates, there will be more antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits found. Chocolate also contains magnesium, which has known anti-inflammatory properties.”

5. “Aphrodisiac: Chocolate contains chemicals that cause the brain to release compounds that trigger the ‘feeling of love.’ When the taste buds are stimulated with pleasurable flavors, there are endorphins released in the brain. These endorphins are the feel good compounds of the body. Some researchers relate the mood boosting benefits to be more related to the ‘comfort food’ mechanism where people relate certain foods to feelings of happiness. Whether a true physiological response, or the simple pleasure of eating a gift of love, chocolate can put you in the mood for love.”

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