Chocolate – The Answer We’re Looking For?

43271048 - closeup of woman eating chocolateWith Valentine’s Day around the corner, the stores are quickly filling up with chocolates of every shape and form. Although the health benefits of chocolate may have been overstated in the past, there’s no reason not to indulge once in a while.

I’m certainly no stranger to this treat in moderation, needing no more motivation than its incomparable taste, but wouldn’t it be great if chocolate was the answer to some of our more common concerns?

Chocolate and Weight Loss: Sound too good to be true? The University of Copenhagen published a study showing that dark chocolate decreases the craving for sweet, salty and fatty foods that typically throw dieters off the track. And neuroscientist Will Clower made headlines in 2014 when he stated that eating chocolate 20 minutes before a meal would cut appetite by 30%-50%. Before you head to the store, keep in mind that recommendations call for dark chocolate of at least 70% cacao with portions of no more than 1 ounce per day.

Chocolate and Sun Damage: Some foods rich in antioxidants can actually boost your skin’s natural abilities to protect from sunburn damage.  Add chocolate to that list. Cocoa beans contain flavonoids which act like antioxidants. A London University study published in 2009 found that test subjects who consumed a 20g portion of high-flavonol chocolate daily over a period of 12 weeks took twice as long to burn from sun exposure than test subjects who consumed chocolate with low levels of flavonol. The conclusions, however, did not warrant abandoning conventional sun smart practices like wearing a broad spectrum sunscreen. The experiment, however, was most likely delicious.

Chocolate and Wrinkles: Anti-aging chocolate has been in the news before  and continues to be a niche-product for those who are hoping to regain the skin of their 20 year old selves, but the jury is still out on whether it will make much of a difference to someone who already eats right, leads a healthy lifestyle and takes good care of their skin. There are still some out there, however, that see the potential of chocolate in fighting wrinkles. A group of Malaysian scientists recently found that cocoa pods, normally discarded during processing, contain active compounds such as malic acid and ellagic acid, both of which are found in skin care treatments. To test the commercial viability of their discovery, a gel formulated with cocoa pod extract was applied to the skin of 12 subjects. The results were promising: a 12% reduction in wrinkles after 5 weeks with the added benefit of increased skin hydration.

Alas, chocolate may not be the answer to all our woes. But the good news is that consumption of dark chocolate can help decrease stress by releasing dopamine, endorphins and serotonin, all which contribute to boosting our mood and making us feel happier. Well worth it, don’t you agree?

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