The Health Benefits of Chocolate
With the New Year come and gone, many of us are making good on a resolution to eat healthier. So what’s a chocolate lover to do?
Good news. Research says you can have your cake and eat it, too. As long as that cake is chocolate.For centuries, chocolate has been used to treat diseases and maladies such as depression. Civilizations from Mexico to Europe have hailed chocolate as an aphrodisiac.
The U.S. government officially recognized its virtues in World War II, making the chocolate candy bar standard issue for the military.
Chocolate’s scientific name, theobroma cacao, is literally translated as “food of the gods,” and we chocolate cravers don’t need any studies to tell us the power of chocolate in mood alteration. Its feel good chemicals have long been associated with feelings of love, safety, and comfort. Maybe that’s why Americans eat an average of 12 pounds of chocolate per year.
Chocolate contains vitamins A, B1, C, D, and E, as well as potassium, sodium, iron, and fluorine. Now, researchers say those creamy chocolate confections may actually help us live longer, too.
Harvard researchers tracked nearly 8,000 males, with an average age of 65. Those men who enjoyed chocolate and candy lived almost a year longer than those who did not. Those who ate one to three candy bars per month had a 36 percent lower risk of death (compared to the people who ate no candy), while those who ate three or more candy bars per week had a 16 percent lower risk.
Why? The researchers say they don’t know for sure, but that it might have something to do with antioxidants. Chocolate contains the same antioxidant chemicals as wine (phenols). In the chocolate bar, phenols help preserve the fat. In our bodies, phenol can help prevent atherosclerosis.
Like anything, chocolate is best enjoyed in moderation. Just one ounce of solid chocolate packs about 150 calories and can be as much as 50 percent fat. So, for your next chocolate fix, consider reduced fat alternatives, such as chocolate covered foods or chocolate syrup.