Why You Should Be Eating Chocolate Right Now

Friday, February 9th, 2007 by benjamin

Ever crave a bite (or three!) of chocolate but feel like you really shouldn’t? Read on for numerous scientific reasons you should indulge those cravings daily.

1. A small study suggests that eating dark chocolate can lower your blood pressure — for once, something that tastes good is also good for you! It doesn’t happen often, so I suggest you take advantage of it. German researchers said in the Journal of the American Medical Association that the short study would need to be confirmed in larger, more long-term ones before doctors could recommend the “chocolate treatment.”

Thirteen adults with untreated mild hypertension got to eat 3-ounce chocolate bars every day for two weeks. Half of the patients got white chocolate, while the other half got dark chocolate. Blood pressure remained pretty much unchanged in the group that ate white chocolate, but after two weeks, systolic blood pressure had dropped an average of five points in the dark-chocolate group. Diastolic blood pressure reading fell an average of almost two points.

2. Why do people get addicted to chocolate? Why is it that when you’re having a bad day your mind turns towards that creamy, chocolatety goodness? In part, it’s due to the interesting chemical makeup of everybody’s favorite candy. Theobromine, one of the most active chemicals in chocolate, is similar to caffeine and can lift your spirits. Other chemicals in chocolate include anandamide and phenylethylamine, or PEA, which has also been called the “love chemical” because of its effects on the brain’s neurochemistry. High levels of this neurotransmitter can help promote feelings of attraction, excitement, giddiness and apprehension by stimulating the brain’s pleasure center.

Chocolate contains over 300 chemicals and it is not known how all of these affect humans. Many woman crave chocolate during their pre-menstrual period, probably because chocolate contains magnesium, a lack of which can exacerbate premenstrual tension. Similar cravings during pregnancy could indicate mild anemia, which can be helped by the iron in chocolate.

The brain uses the chemical Tryptophan, also found in chocolate, to make serotonin. High levels of serotonin can produce feelings of elation, even ecstasy (the drug ecstacy works the same way to raise serotonin levels).

3. Recent research at New York University suggests there is a genetic reason why some people crave sugary foods. The study was based on two strains of mice, selectively bred according to whether the parents preferred sweetened or unsweetened water. The team located the gene that was different in the two groups of mice and then searched for similar genetic sequences in humans.

4 Californian scientist Professor Carl Keen and his team have suggested that chocolate might help fight heart disease. They say that it contains chemicals called flavinoids, which thin the blood, helping to prevent clotting. Scientists have already suggested that red wine acts in this way.

5. Researchers at Harvard University have carried out experiments that suggest that if you eat chocolate three times a month you will live almost a year longer than those who deny themselves these simple pleasures. However, don’t start pigging out yet– the Harvard research also suggested that people who eat too much chocolate can have a lower life expectancy. Chocolate’s high fat content means that excess indulgence can contribute to obesity, which leads to an increased risk of heart disease.

So, just like your Mama told you, everything in moderation. However, if you do need to scarf some down, at least confine yourself to dark chocolate. It’s higher in cocoa than milk chocolate and helps to increase levels of HDL, a type of cholesterol that helps prevent fat clogging up arteries. In addition, recent research at UC Davis found that chocolate carries high levels of chemicals known as phenolics, some of which may help lower the risk of heart disease.

So what are you waiting for?!?

~Janet

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