Member Article - Surprising Benefits of Chocolate by Chiva-Som
Chocolate is arguably one of the most craved foods in the world, and for good reason. It delivers not only a variety of wonderful aromas, flavors and textures, but it also delivers some astounding health benefits such as improved mood and focus and more.
Cocoa comes from roasted cacao seeds and is high in plant compounds which have been shown in studies a wide variety of health benefits.
Chocolate, through its polyphenol content, may be able to help enhance blood flow by enhancing nitric oxide signaling. The polyphenols act on an enzyme that works by increasing nitric oxide output within blood vessels. This helps to relax blood vessels thus allowing for better blood flow. This enhanced blood flow has even been shown to potentially enhance cognitive function by increasing blood flow and oxygenation within the brain.
In addition to cocoa’s beneficial effects on blood flow, Chocamine’s polyphenol content may also help promote healthy levels of cholesterol. By promoting healthy cholesterol levels, Chocamine may be able to further help promote overall cardiovascular function.
Cocoa also contains some minor compounds which have been found to act on neurological systems in our brains. Cacao stimulates the release of phenylethylamine (PEA) which boosts focus and awareness. It can also stimulate the release of anandamide which helps you feel good. Cacao is a source of tryptophan which is the precursor to serotonin.
If we look back to some of the first uses of cocoa, it was often combined and consumed with chili peppers and vanilla beans. Surely some of this is to make it even more delicious, but it is now also believed that they can boost the mood-enhancing effects of cocoa. Research has shown that the active compound in chili peppers and the active compound in vanilla both act on receptors in the brain increasing the effects of anandamide. Combining this with cocoa makes for an interesting and spicy cocoa beverage that may help you feel great.
But keep in mind that all these benefits are not true for all chocolate out there. Most chocolate is made by adding sugar, milk, and other ingredients to cocoa powder. Those ingredients can counteract a good amount cocoa's health benefit. The reality is that good quality cocoa can be a supremely healthy delicious treat. But the high sugar, high calorie chocolate bars that contain it are just candy most of the time.
By Dr. Tal Friedman
Head Naturopathic Doctor & Research and Development Specialist