Does Chocolate Protect Your Heart?
While the added sugar and fat abundant in most chocolate concoctions does our hearts no favors, chocolate may offer some heart protection. Flavanols-powerful antioxidants found in cocoa-may help improve blood flow. Numerous studies show that 1.5-3 ounce servings of dark chocolate daily can lower blood pressure by about 2-3 points. (Reality check: a 1.5-3 ounce serving of dark chocolate contains 200-400 calories).
Typically, added saturated fats in chocolate products can raise cholesterol. While mostly a saturated fat, the fat in cocoa butter tends not to raise or lower blood cholesterol levels.
Your Brain on Chocolate?
Is it any surprise that chocolate is the number one reported food craving in the United States? Chocolate may help boost natural endorphins, and the mouthfeel of melting chocolate is very enjoyable. As anyone who has reached for a pint of chocolate fudge ice cream after a tough day knows, chocolate cravings are higher when we feel down.
Chocolate can have a mild stimulatory effect. Contrary to popular belief, the caffeine content of chocolate is minimal. A typical serving has about as much caffeine as a cup of decaf coffee.
How About a Nutrient Boost?
Chocolate can be a good source of magnesium, potassium, and fiber. Though chocolate's nutrition profile pales in comparison to leafy green veggies, it has more nutrition than pure sweets like jelly beans. Realistically, most people are not eating chocolate for the nutrition. Let's not forget the nutrient most of us are not lacking-calories. Enjoy a small amount of chocolate for what it is-