Happy Holidays to each of you!
As always, when I share a newsletter with you, it is dedicated to your health and well-being, yet this issue has a different flavor!
Honoring that we are all humans and have some desires and habits that we enjoy, I wanted to share some beneficial health tips about chocolate for this holiday season.
Just remember, when eating chocolate, be mindful of what your personal health needs are, make good decisions, and most of all enjoy it!
WHY EAT CHOCOLATE?
~ Dark chocolate is rich with nutrients including fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese and other beneficial minerals.
~ It is high in anti-oxidants (keeps the body tissues from oxidizing/aging). These include polyphenols, flavonols and catechins. In fact, unprocessed cocoa beans are some of the highest rated foods for these substances found – more than blueberries and acai berries. Dark chocolate is close behind cocoa beans.
~ Reduces Blood Pressure – it’s these same flavonoids in dark chocolate that stimulate the lining of the arteries to produce nitric oxide (NO) which sends signals to the arteries to relax, thus lowering blood pressure in small but statistically significant decreases.
~ Prevents LDL (cholesterol) Oxidation. In men, dark chocolate has been shown to decrease the cholesterol particle LDL, along with preventing its becoming oxidized and causing more damage to the arteries. It also has been shown to increase HDL, the protective cholesterol molecule.
~ Dark chocolate can reduce insulin resistance, which is a common risk factor for diabetes and heart disease. It improves insulin sensitivity at the cell membrane so the glucose can get into the cell and be metabolized correctly. This can help decrease body fat accumulation. NOTE: Watch the sugar content of the chocolate you choose – the best health effects come from 70% dark or higher, containing minimal or no added sugar.
~ Lowered cardiovascular disease risk. The protection it provides against oxidizing LDL makes cholesterol lodging in the arteries much less likely. Cocoa, dark, without sugar, or fat, was found in one study of 470 elderly men to reduce the risk of death from heart disease by 50% over 15 years.
~ Another study shows dark chocolate to lower calcified plaque by 32%, if eaten regularly two or more times per week – less than that had no effect! A further study shows eating dark chocolate more than five times per week lowered heart disease risk by 57%. Now, studies can be devised to show many things, but I think we can safely conclude from several of these studies that there are some great benefits from dark chocolate in reducing heart disease. The type of chocolate consumed could play an important role.
~ The flavonoids present in dark chocolate can improve blood flow to the skin and protect it from sun damage.
~ Creates improved blood flow to the brain with improved verbal fluency and cognitive function.
All of these positive effects don’t mean that you should go all out and consume lots of chocolate every day. It is still loaded with calories and easy to overeat. This is especially true of milk chocolate which tends to have added fat, sugar, and dairy. Instead, choose high quality dark chocolate that is 70% or more cocoa content or pure 100% cocoa itself. Select kinds that have low added sugar and remember the darker it is, generally the lower the sugar content. Organic has some benefits also and avoiding sources with potential contamination is important. All the studies creating the data above were done on dark chocolate 70% or higher.
Most of all, ENJOY your dark chocolate! It is one food that tastes awesome, while providing significant positive health benefits!
The happiest of holidays to you – may the gifts of this season bring you joy, peace, and a sense of loving connection with others.
Here’s to the joy of chocolate!
Jane Kennedy, NP