“There is more to life than chocolate, but not right now.” ~ Anonymous
Today is the six-month anniversary of Awakening to Awareness. In honor of this milestone and because I’ve been wanting to share this for some time, I’m posting about the value and benefits of consuming dark chocolate. It has nothing to do with an addiction I acknowledge. 🙂 Keep in mind that the following is specific to dark chocolate, which is really the only authentic chocolate.
Chocolate gets a bad rap when, in fact, it is a plentiful source of antioxidants. These are the substances that reduce the ongoing cellular and arterial damage caused by oxidative reactions. We who are cardiac aware have studied and can vouch for this.
You may have heard of a type of antioxidants called polyphenols. These are protective chemicals found in plant foods such as red wine and green tea. Chocolate, as it turns out, is particularly rich in polyphenols. According to researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, the same antioxidant properties found in red wine that protect against heart disease are also found in comparable quantities of chocolate.
How does chocolate help to prevent heart disease? The oxidation of LDL cholesterol is considered a major factor in the promotion of heart disease. When this waxy substance oxidizes, it tends to stick to artery walls, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke. But polyphenols in chocolate inhibit this oxidation of LDL cholesterol.
But wait, there’s more. One of the causes of atherosclerosis is blood platelets clumping together, a process called aggregation. Polyphenols in chocolate inhibit this clumping, reducing the risks of atherosclerosis.
High blood pressure is a well-known risk factor for heart disease. It is also one of the most common causes of kidney failure and a significant contributor to many kinds of dementia and cognitive impairment. Studies have shown that consuming a small bar of dark chocolate daily can reduce blood pressure in people with mild hypertension.
So how much chocolate would you have to eat to obtain benefit? Less than you might think. According to a study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, adding only half an ounce of dark chocolate to an average American diet is enough to increase total antioxidant capacity four percent (4%), and lessen oxidation of LDL cholesterol.
Chocolate also contains other substances with mood elevating effects. One is phenethylamine, which triggers the release of pleasurable endorphins and potentates the action of dopamine, a neurochemical associated with sexual arousal and pleasure. Phenethylamine is released in the brain when people become infatuated or fall in love.
And if that weren’t enough, chocolate also boosts the brain levels of serotonin. A whole class of anti-depressive medications called serotonin uptake inhibitors (including Prozac, Paxil, and Zooloft) have been developed that raise brain levels of serotonin.
On this six-month anniversary of creating awareness for you, need I say any more? 🙂