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Fitness & Health

01st May 2019

From muscle building to a mood booster: five surprising health benefits of dark chocolate

Dark chocolate can be good for you. From muscle building to a mood booster, it has some surprising health benefits you may not have been aware of

Alex Roberts

Dark chocolate can be good for you – and scientific studies say so

That doesn’t mean you can eat as much of it as you want. But, from muscle building to a mood boost, dark chocolate has some surprising health benefits you may not have been aware of.

JOE spoke to Ceitanna Cooper, Registered Associate Nutritionist at AXA PPP healthcare, who has put together the top five health benefits of dark chocolate.

1. Mood boost

“Chocolate contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid that stimulates production of serotonin, the brain’s natural anti-depressant. Experts equate the feelings it induces to those we experience when we fall in love.”

2. Heart health

“Flavonoids found in dark chocolate seem to stimulate the body to make more nitric oxide, which helps to widen and relax blood vessels, which may help to lower blood pressure.”

This is also beneficial if you’re lifting weights at the gym, as your muscles will need all the oxygen and nutrients possibly available.

3. Protects the arteries

“Flavonoids also help to stop LDL (bad) cholesterol from oxidising, helping to prevent the clogging of arteries.

“Flavonoids contain more than 50% of an unusual type of saturated fat called stearic acid, present in cocoa butter. This doesn’t raise bad cholesterol and may even increase levels of the protective good cholesterol (HDL).”

4. Calms coughs

“Chocolate also contains a chemical called theobromine, which has been shown to suppress coughing by acting on the vagus nerve, which carries messages from the central nervous system to the brain.”

5. Brain benefits

“A chemical called epicatechin – found in cocoa and green tea – may also help protect the brain against the formation of sticky proteins or amyloid plaques which develop in Alzheimer’s disease.”

Why is dark chocolate better than milk chocolate?

Cooper says: “It’s most likely that you get more flavonoids in a dark chocolate that lists cocoa beans, cacao, chocolate liquor or cocoa mass on its ingredients list, so check the label. Milk chocolate tends to have very few flavonoids and white chocolate has none.”

How much dark chocolate is too much?

Cooper says you should stick to a few squares or a small bar to avoid overdoing it.

“Before you rush off to grab the nearest chocolate bar, it’s best if you regard it as a ‘treat’, rather than a health food. If you eat it in small amounts, alongside a healthy, balanced diet, it shouldn’t contribute to weight gain and it will certainly not do you any harm. ”

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