Happy Valentine’s Day. Or, as I like to call it, Give Me Some Chocolate Day.
If the cocoa lover in your life is expecting chocolate today too, but you’re worried about gifting your sweetheart with something unhealthy I’ve got great news. Not only can you give the joy of chocolate without the guilt, you could actually be helping the love of your life get healthier.
The key is to pass by those displays piled high with heart-shaped boxes of candy, and grab some decadently-rich dark chocolate bars instead. Wrap them up with a pretty bow and you’ll BOTH be happy.
Following are four terrific reasons to give your sweetheart the gift of chocolate today.
1. Get better blood pressure:
Dark chocolate is packed with plant compounds that can improve blood pressure. These flavonoids help open up blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more freely bringing BP down.
In a review published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers crunched the numbers on a staggering 133 different studies on flavonoid-rich foods. They concluded that the delicious treat significantly reduces both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.1
But keep in mind, the darker the better and moderation is key. Just three ounces of good quality dark chocolate could help reduce your sweetheart’s blood pressure by up to 10 points, according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.2
2. Increase “good” cholesterol:
We’re not done with the heart-linked benefits of dark chocolate yet. It turns out indulging in a few squares every week could be a natural way to improve cholesterol levels, and get the doctor off your back.
In a study using cocoa powder volunteers saw a significant drop in their oxidized LDL (the really bad stuff) and overall LDL cholesterol levels. But the benefits didn’t end there. Their HDL, or “good” cholesterol levels shot up at the same time, according to the research published in the Journal of Nutrition.3
3. Boost brain power:
When you think of the powerful antioxidant resveratrol you likely picture a glass of red wine. And it’s true, red wine is brimming with the nutrient. But dark chocolate packs a good resveratrol punch too. And experts believe it may be the resveratrol content in dark chocolate that makes it such a brain-friendly food.
A recent study published in the journal Neurology revealed that resveratrol may be an unlikely ally in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. According to researchers the antioxidant appears to stabilize the beta amyloid plaques that are at the heart of the devastating disease.4
But resveratrol isn’t the only brain-friendly nutrient in chocolate. The flavanols found in cocoa could also help improve the connections in certain parts of your sweetheart’s brain.
Flavonols significantly improved cognitive function in one group of seniors who were experiencing some age-related brain burps.5,6 And after three months on a high-flavanol diet another group of seniors walked away with better memories.7
4. Burn through more fat:
The love of your life is perfect already, of course. But I’m betting this last benefit will still be a popular one. It turns out the same resveratrol that’s so good for the brain could also help reverse some of the consequences of making a few poor diet choices.
The research is still early, but in an exciting animal study mice fed a daily dose of resveratrol, like you’ll find in dark chocolate, gained 40 percent less weight than control mice, despite being on a high-calorie, high-fat diet designed to pack on the pounds!8
The bottom line? You shouldn’t feel a bit guilty about giving your sweetheart some chocolate today. In fact, you should treat yourself to some too.
1. “Flavonoids, flavonoid-rich foods, and cardiovascular risk: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials,” Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Jul;88(1):38-50
2. “Chocolate and Blood Pressure in Elderly Individuals With Isolated Systolic Hypertension,” JAMA. 2003;290(8):1029-1030
3. “Plasma LDL and HDL cholesterol and oxidized LDL concentrations are altered in normo- and hypercholesterolemic humans after intake of different levels of cocoa powder,” J Nutr. 2007 Jun;137(6):1436-41
4. “A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of resveratrol for Alzheimer disease,” Neurology. 2015 Oct 20;85(16):1383-91
5. “Benefits in Cognitive Function, Blood Pressure, and Insulin Resistance Through Cocoa Flavanol Consumption in Elderly Subjects With Mild Cognitive Impairment The Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) Study,” Hypertension. 2012;60:794-801
6. “Cocoa flavanol consumption improves cognitive function, blood pressure control, and metabolic profile in elderly subjects: the Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) Study—a randomized controlled trial” Am J Clin Nutr, First published December 17, 2014
7. “Enhancing dentate gyrus function with dietary flavanols improves cognition in older adults,” Nature Neuroscience, 17, 1798–1803, (2014)
8. “Resveratrol induces brown-like adipocyte formation in white fat through activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) α1,” International Journal of Obesity (12 March 2015)
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