Perhaps no substance on earth is as conflicted as chocolate. It seems to be both universally delicious, and universally sinful. We want it, but we feel we shouldn’t be allowed to have it. In fact, if we take a look at diet products, a selling point for many weight loss shakes or meal replacement bars is that they taste like chocolate – a treat that ought to be forbidden if we are trying to lose weight.
But does chocolate deserve all of this bad press? As it turns out, chocolate – real chocolate – may be a lot healthier than we think. Check out these benefits!
You’ve heard the term “stress eating.” When people feel stressed out they turn to comfort foods and often choose chocolate. Now, we’ve been taught that stress eating is bad, but what if the snack you were eating was actually helping to relieve your stress?
Chocolate helps your body increase levels of anandamide, a lipid which helps activate the brain receptors responsible for calm feelings. In other words, if you’re craving chocolate during stressful times, your body may be seeking it out specifically because it helps you to feel calmer. Go ahead and listen to that little voice.
You’ll see richly-colored foods promoted as being full of antioxidants, and they are! The purplish-red of a pomegranate, the emerald green of spinach, and the velvety brown of dark chocolate. Yes, really!
Antioxidants are your body’s front line of defense against free radicals – those harmful and highly reactive molecules looking to bond with your DNA and cause damage. The more antioxidants you get into your system, the more effectively your body can fight off these free radicals.
And it’s not like chocolate is “as good as” a serving of fruit or vegetables – many studies show it’s actually better! There are more antioxidants in a serving of dark chocolate than there are in an apple, a carrot, or even a glass of red wine.
It Really is an Aphrodisiac
Chocolate is usually advertised in one of two ways: either it’s fun, or it’s sexy. Turns out, there’s a good reason for those slow camera pans across drizzling chocolate while romantic music plays in the background.
When you eat chocolate, your body releases phenylethylamine, which is the same substance released when you feel physical attraction to someone. Now, you may need to eat an awful lot of chocolate before you feel a libido boost, but if you associate chocolate and romance, there may be a biological reason for it.
Chocolate Helps You Feel Full
If you are craving chocolate, studies show you are far better off just indulging that craving rather than trying to find some kind of substitute. Not only is chocolate full of antioxidants, but dark chocolate is also full of fiber and dietary fat – two things which help you feel full and satisfied.
Eating an imitation chocolate cookie probably won’t hit the spot the way you hope it will, so you wind up eating four or five when you only meant to have one. Whereas eating a square of chocolate when you’re craving a square of chocolate will scratch that itch, and provide a few added health benefits besides.
It Boosts Your Mood
Do you remember that happy feeling you got as a child whenever your parents bought you the chocolate bar you’d been begging for? There’s nothing childish about that feeling. People who indulge in chocolate cravings feel better, and have a brighter outlook as a result of doing so.
So, you can mope around all day denying yourself the thing you really want, or you can just have it, feel better, and get on with your day.
It May Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
This might be the most surprising fact of all. While it’s no secret that a diet rich in sugary foods is more likely to cause type 2 diabetes, there have been some interesting and unexpected findings in recent studies. These studies have shown that women who regularly consume chocolate are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than women who hardly ever indulge at all.
While scientists are not exactly why this is so, it seems that dark chocolate has some properties which may help protect against insulin resistance in your body.
As with all things, moderation is key. However, real dark chocolate can be a very beneficial food. So, the next time you have a craving, indulge responsibly and leave your guilt at the door.