It's Christmas time, and you know what that means. Carols, lines of people at the store buying presents, Christmas trees, and food. Not just any food, of course, but delicious sweets and desserts made of chocolate. During this time of year chocolate is used more than any other, being put into cakes, pies, frozen treats, ice creams, drinks, and candies. Normally we all feel a little guilty about all this extra chocolate – after all, isn't it bad for you? Surprising new nutritional discoveries about chocolate just may alleviate a little bit of that guilt. New research has found a few interesting things, and noted some very real health benefits associated with consumption of chocolate. Here are some of these findings, to help every dedicated chocoholic out there.
No, chocolate doesn't contain a lot of vitamins, and it isn't rich in minerals either. Cocoa, however, happens to contain a few singular nutrients that have positive influences on the body. Cocoa contains endorphins, which are chemical agents used as natural opiates in the body to reduce suffering from pain. Several different stimulants are also found in cocoa, which will wake you up, increase your cognitive function, and make you more alert to everything around you. Last but not least, cocoa happens to contain tryptophan. This legendary substance, blamed for causing sleepiness in turkey, is actually known to relieve stress and lower anxiety levels. It's important to note, however, that you won't really feel all of these effects simply by eating chocolate. Chocolate contains such small amounts of these substances that you'd have to eat a very unwise amount to really notice the benefits you'd be getting, and your stomach would probably hurt so bad you might not actually feel them.
One area where chocolate does truly excel, however, is antioxidants. For those of you who don't know, antioxidants are what Hollywood celebrities and health nuts are absolutely going crazy over. They're agents that get absorbed by your body and protect it from free radicals. These are harmful products that damage the body, causing everything from the development of cancer to early aging. Chocolate, fortunately, contains a lot of these antioxidants – more, actually, than most other foods, even blueberries. Dark and milk chocolates have very high ORAC values, which are measurements that determine how powerful the antioxidant value of a food is. While dark chocolate has roughly twice the amount of antioxidants as milk chocolate, a 40 gram serving of milk chocolate has about the same antioxidant content of one glass of red wine.
The most certain and significant benefit that can come from consuming chocolate has to do with your heart. The nutrients in chocolate have been shown to benefit nearly every single piece of the cardiovascular system by controlling blood flow and blood pressure. Cocoa contains substances that have been shown to aid the body in the normal production and maintenance of Nitric Oxide. This is a chemical compound that is vital in keeping healthy blood flow, and by keeping the compound in the blood, chocolate actually causes the heart to be under less stress. Chocolate also has the ability to regulate blood platelets in the bloodstream. Platelets are what cause your blood to thicken, and although necessary to keep you from bleeding to death, must be controlled and kept at a healthy level. If not, the blood will thicken, blood pressure will rise, and the heart will over time sustain serious damage, as well as placing the person in risk of developing a stroke.
While chocolate is normally viewed as being very good for you, it can actually be a healthy addition to your diet. It can help keep your heart and blood vessels in pristine condition, as well as ward off premature aging. The key to chocolate, of course, is that a little goes a long way, and while chocolate does have a few very important health benefits, it is also loaded with calories. Because of this, it is recommended that you intake chocolate between 3 to 5 times a month, to receive the most benefits while consuming the least amount of calories. Snack on chocolate wisely, and remember – it's ok to splurge every once in a while, especially around Christmas!
ARTICLE SOURCE: http://www.articlesbase.com/nutrition-articles/the-health-benefits-of-chocolate-286742.html