The BeneFITs of Chocolate

Feeling a tad bit tempted this Easter? Has the festive rabbit been a bit generous this year?

FEAR NOT! Because indulging in your favourite holiday treat may not be the end-all to your New Year’s fitness goals!

In fact, chocolate, specifically dark chocolate, contains powerful antioxidants. More specifically, the one we want to focus on here is a flavonol called epicatechin. What is a flavonol, you ask? They are compounds that are found in plants, and are known to fight inflammation and protect against cell damage caused by free radicals.

Here are some of the better known benefits of dark chocolate:

1. It increases heart health by lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of clotting and increasing blood circulation to the heart.

2. Chocolate reduces stress… maybe its the endorphins, or maybe its just that the yumminess makes us oh so happy, but it seems that people who ate dark chocolate reported that they felt less stressed. Indeed though, the stress hormone cortisol has been scientifically proven to be reduced by eating dark chocolate.

3. It also combats diabetes by supporting cells that help the body to use insulin better.

4. Dark chocolate balances the immune system by preventing it from going into overdrive. This reduces oxidative stress, which is an imbalance caused by cells fighting against free radicals and a common cause of many diseases.

5. It improves brain function. YES! That’s what we want to hear! The flavonoid in chocolate do in fact have a positive impact on brain function, such as increased memory power, better reaction time, and improved visual-spatial awareness.

6. It boosts athletic performance. NOW we are talking! You can increase your stamina and intensity by eating dark chocolate an hour to 30 minutes before your workout, as the epicatechin in dark chocolate increases the production of nitric oxide in the blood, which supports circulation and reduces the amount of oxygen an athlete uses while engaged in moderately intense exercise.

Of course, the key here is, the darker the better… Nutritionists recommend a ratio of at least 70% cacao to truly reap the benefits mentioned above. And of course, you do want to watch the sugar content of some brands of chocolate to avoid an energy crash as well as empty calories (i.e. that will in contrast not have health benefits, and that have less nutritional value).

As with most things in life, over-indulgence is never the way, and moderation is best. A healthy balanced eating pattern may, of course, include the occasional small portion of dark chocolate to boost your day!

Wishing you a very happy long-weekend, happy family time, and hope the Easter Bunny pays you your much-needed visit.