So Chocolate does have health benefits. But it should be pointed out that we are talking little and often here. No 'Binge Chocolate' eating please. Eating too much chocolate can lead to increased body weight, a small bar contains about a quarter of the recommended daily calorie intake for a women. What's more, chocolate contains saturated fats, these are the ones closely associated with heart disease. Researchers who've studied the subject say that you get maximum benefit, and fewer ill effects from just one or two squares a day. Another thing to remember is, choose dark varieties of chocolate, those containing at least 70 per cent cocoa solids and check that they contain low levels of cocoa butter. This way you can indulge your chocolate habit without regrets, and can now nibble on your favourite treat without feeling guilty because it could actually have health-giving properties
Lets get serious and look a little deeper. It is now recognised that chocolate has one of the highest level of antioxidants in food. New evidence is accumulating that chocolate is particularly rich in larger flavonoid molecules, these are what are known as complex oligomers. They also appears to have a higher anti-oxidant activity than red wine .A study at King's College London found that 50g of dark chocolate contains as many flavonoids as six apples, two glasses of wine or seven onions !This means that these naturally occurring substances in chocolate offer some degree of protection against heart disease and related circulatory disorders. Many other studies have shown that food rich in flavonals, found in plant-based foods such as apples, onions, peanuts and cranberries as well as in red wine and chocolate, can help to maintain cardiovascular health.
In a study by the University of California it was found that eating chocolate actually slowed down down the blood clotting process. Volunteers ate 25 g of semi-sweet chocolate, manufactured by Mars, while a control group had bread.
Blood samples were taken from both groups before they ate and again two and six hours afterwards and their platelet function was measured. Platelets are tiny cells in the blood, which help it clot if there is an injury. In this study, researchers looked at how long it took platelets to fully close an opening and found it took significantly longer in people who had eaten chocolate.
Professor Carl Keen, of the University of California, Davis, told the British Association for the Advancement of Science last year that eating small amounts of chocolate could have the same anti-clotting effect as taking an aspirin and so might reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis when flying.
Other well known benefits include lowering cholesterol and through a combination of certain body compounds, chocolate actually gives the feeling of being in “love”. Interesting. Because we associate romance with a with a box of chocolates, there may be a good reason for this. Chocolate contains the natural love drug tryptophan. The brain uses this to make a neurotransmitter called serotonin and usually the more serotonin you have, the happier you feel. In addition, chocolate contains small quantities of phenylethylamine, another neurotransmitter that creates feelings of giddiness, attraction and excitement in the brain's pleasure centre - levels peak during orgasm. So go easy, you could get hooked.
Another study, at Penn State University, compared a diet low in flavonoids with one high in chocolate and found that people who ate lots of chocolate had higher anti-oxidant levels in their blood and lower levels of LDL-cholesterol - the type that is implicated in hardening of the arteries. Further research also found that a diet supplemented with chocolate reduced LDL levels. It is also acknowledged to promote the dilation of the blood and cardiovascular system.
The list continues to grow. A study reported in New York to the American Society of Hypertension meeting showed that volunteers had less arterial stiffness after consuming 100g of good quality, plain chocolate. (Please note – Good quality chocolate) While Dr Naomi Fisher, of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, USA, believes that the flavonoids in cocoa act on an enzyme in the body called nitric oxide synthase, which helps the cocoa to dilate blood vessels, improve kidney function and lower blood pressure.
Can't get rid of that cough, take chocolate. Research from Imperial College London says that Theobromine, a key ingredient in chocolate, is a third more effective than codeine when it comes to clearing up a cough. Theobromine works by suppressing the activity of the vagus nerve, which causes coughing and, best of all, it doesn't produce any adverse effects on the cardiovascular or central nervous systems.
Also chocolate is well known to have high levels of magnesium. This alkaline mineral is deficient in many people, and could be the reason why women suffering from PMS crave chocolate.
Oh and one last thing - If you're watching your weight, it's worth knowing that a survey of people's dieting habits for Marks and Spencer revealed that chocolate derailed the best intentions of 48 per cent of female dieters and 32 per cent of male dieters.