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Chocolate (dark) » Homemade Remedies for Your Health


Added antioxidants
Back pain

Boosting mood
Heart health
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Mood enhancement

You’ve got to love modern science, especially when it comes up with excellent reasons for people to indulge in delectable dark chocolate. Now we know that chocolate, once considered a “sinful” indulgence, actually contains the same disease-fighting antioxidants found in red wine and in many fruits and vegetables that are linked to a decreased risk of heart disease.


rooted in history
Both the Mayans and the Aztecs believed that chocolate was magical, even divine, and used it in their sacred
rituals. The Aztec king, Montezuma, may have been the first to serve chocolate to Spanish conquistadors, who at first sneered at the unsweetened drink, calling it “a bitter drink for pigs.” But once the conquistadors mixed it with sugar, they were hooked. Chocolate was among the treasures the Spanish brought back from the New World, and after its introduction in 1528, its source and preparation were kept secret for over 90 years. But by the 17th century, chocolate was popular all over Europe and was considered nutritious, medicinal, and even a libido enhancer. Legend has it that the libertine Casanova was a big fan. Chocolate then made its way back across the Atlantic as Europeans settled in North America. It became such a desirable and valuable commodity that Revolutionary War soldiers were given chocolate as part of their standard rations, and sometimes it was even used in lieu of cash wages.


what’s in it?
The cacao beans used to make the chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, and cocoa powder found in chocolate products are chock full of flavonoids. These powerful antioxidants neutralize the free radicals that damage cells and cause disease. Dark chocolate contains far more flavonoid-rich cocoa par tides than milk chocolate—so if you’re eating chocolate for your health, forgo the sweet stuff and choose chocolate that contains at least 60 percent cacao. The higher the percent age of cacao, the more good stuff the chocolate contains. Chocolate’s flavonoids increase the body’s levels of nitric oxide, a gas that causes blood vessels to relax and expand, which in turn promotes healthy circulation and blood pres sure. Chocolate is made up of three kinds of fats in roughly equal amounts. One is oleic acid, a heart-healthy fat also found in olive oil. The others are stearic and palmitic acids, which are forms of saturated fats. Unlike the saturated fats that increase unhealthy cholesterol, stearic acid appears to have a neutral effect on it. Palmitic acid, on the other hand, does raise cholesterol levels, but it only makes up about a third of chocolate’s fat calories.


what science says
Chocolate is a gift of love on Valentine’s Day and a fabled reliever of romantic encounters gone wrong. Women, in particular, are known to reach for chocolate when nursing a case of the blues. Now, scientists are a baby step closer to figuring out the reason for chocolate’s happy-making reputation. In a recent study, scientists from the Nestlé Research Center in Switzerland examined chocolate’s effects on stress hormone levels. They enrolled 30 people in the study and tested their anxiety levels. Thirteen people tested as high anxiety; 17 tested as low anxiety. Everyone got 20 grams of dark chocolate (about an ounce) twice a day. After two weeks, researchers performed blood and urine tests and dis covered that chocolate lowered levels of stress hormones in all the volunteers but there was a bigger drop for the high- anxiety people than for the low-anxiety people.

As to matters of the heart: The American Heart Association recently summarized years of chocolate research in a report published in its journal, Circulation. The conclusion? “Cocoa does indeed exert beneficial cardiovascular effects.” The reason for the benefits, the report said, are chocolate’s concentration of polyphenols, which are also found in fruits and vegetables.


For example, in 2008, researchers at Johns Hopkins University and Sinai Hospital in Baltimore concluded that eating 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa) every day for a week can lower unhealthy LDL cholesterol by 6 percent and raise healthy HDL cholesterol by 8 per- cent. Finally, Italian researchers, in collaboration with the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, studied 19 people with high blood pres sure and blood sugar control problems. They gave them a daily serving of either 3.5 ounces of dark or white chocolate. After 15 days, the groups switched chocolates. Turns out that eating dark chocolate—but not white—lowers systolic pressure (the first number in a blood pressure reading) by 12 points and diastolic pressure by 9 points. What’s more, eating dark chocolate reduced inflammation, another risk factor for heart disease, and increased insulin sensitivity, an important factor in treating type 2 diabetes.


Good to Know

Chocolate is rich in phenyletbylamine (PEA), a naturally occurring compound that has effects similar to amphetamine, it can trigger migraine headaches in susceptible people.




Choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate—look for cocoa content of at least 60 to 75 percent. The higher the percentage, the more bitter the chocolate will taste, but the richer it will be in antioxidants.. Milk chocolate hasn’t been proven to have similar health benefits, and it contains milk fat, which is highly saturated. Processing removes most of the flavonoids from cocoa and chocolate syrup. White chocolate contains no cocoa and has no health benefits.


The calorie issue
The amount of dark chocolate, 3.5 ounces (100 g), used in some studies contains a whopping 550 calories. That’s just too much of a good thing for most people to eat regularly. If you’re going to indulge daily, settle for 1.5 ounces (40 g), which contains 220 calories. But be sure to trim 220 less healthful calories elsewhere in your diet, or risk packing on 23 pounds over a year’s time.


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