Both chocolate and chocolate lovers have been around for hundreds of years. This treat has long brought pleasure to our taste buds, as well as fame to some regions of the world such as Switzerland and Belgium. When two of our own daughters lived as exchange students at different times in France, chocolate was an important part of their daily lives. Hot cocoa was served every morning for breakfast in both of the homes they visited. But France, Belgium and Swizerland are not the only countries where chocolate has become a common part of the diet. Here in America, we enjoy everything from boxed chocolates for Valentine's Day to hot fudge sundaes or a cup of hot cocoa before bed.
Much to the delight of many, we are discovering that chocolate is not only a pleasant treat; there is some evidence that chocolate may aso have health benefits! What news could be more fun than that?
Of course, the more cacao in the chocolate you consume, the greater the health benefits. For this reason, most doctors recommend that you primarily enjoy dark chocolate that contains 70% cacao. If you don't know where to find the best selection of this gourmet treat, you may want to use this direct link to many brands of dark chocolate on Amazon.com.
According to Real Age.com, below you will discover some of the benefits that you might hope to receive if you eat a small amount of chocolate each day.
Chocolate and Your Blood Pressure
First, chocolate has been shown in some research studies to reduce blood pressure, particularly when small quantities are eaten every day. This may be partially due to the fact that chocolate improves the elasticity of our arteries. The good news, if you love chocolate, is that you have to eat a little of it every day in order for the benefits to last! So, take your "medicine" on a daily basis if you want to keep your blood pressure under control. Dark chocolate, with AT LEAST 70% cacao, is far better than milk chocolate, so be certain that you are eating the right kind. Two to four ounces of seems to be about the right amount for health purposes!
Improve Your Cholesterol Rations
RealAge.com also reported on some interesting research that indicates that chocolate may also improve your cholesterol ratios by increasing your "good" HDL cholesterol and decreasing the "bad" LDL cholesterol. Of course, your overall diet is important, too, so be sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. You can't just rely on chocolate to get your cholesterol down!
Like any other natural treatment for diseases, it should only be part of your total health plan. You should always strive to eat a balanced, healthy diet in order to maintain good health.
Chocolate and the Brain
Additional research has shown that the flavonols in chocolate may increase blood flow to the brain. Researchers studied older adults and discovered that they did better on cognitive tests after eating chocolate. Although more research with other age groups is needed, it is possible that chocolate will benefit the brains of people of all ages. Wouldn't that be a nice bit of news! Lower blood pressure, better cholesterol ratios, and smarter brains ... all from eating a few ounces of one of our favorite treats!
Careful ... Don't Eat Too Much!
OK ... it wouldn't be fair to give you all this good news without telling you the downside, too. As we all know, it is high in fat, sugar and calories. Too much of these cannot possibly be healthy for us! Enjoying everything in moderation applies quite accurately to chocolate. In addition, sometimes chocolate can be contaminated with unhealthy substances, including lead! That's another reason not to eat too much. Finally, for some unlucky people, this delicious treat can trigger migraine headaches, allergies or other healthy problems. If you are one of these people, and you have problems with your blood pressure, cholesterol or your brain function, you should seek out better ways to control these health issues. Also, don't forget that chocolate contains a small amount of caffeine. As a result, you may not wish to consume too much of it too close to bedtime. Of course, a cup of hot cocoa before bed has been enjoyed by children and adults alike for centuries, so the amount of caffeine may not be an issue for most people.
For most people, enjoying two to four ounces of this dark, tasty treat or a cup of hot cocoa each day will not present any problems and could actually improve your health! What could possibly be better news than that?
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