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20 Health Benefits Of Chocolate

20 Health Benefits Of Chocolate

Chocolate is regarded as an indulgent treat because it is mainly associated with weight gain and acne. Americans spend $10 billion annually on chocolaty treats. It is not all bad news as countless studies show dark chocolate has many health benefits. Here are 20 you may not know about and which will help you to indulge in it with less guilt. In moderation of course – I mean, the guilt!

1. It can help your heart to stay healthy

Lots of studies reveal that the flavonoids in chocolate can help your veins and arteries to stay supple. Over 7 studies followed 114,000 participants who were given a few servings of dark chocolate a week. The results showed that their risk of getting a heart attack was reduced by about 37% while the chances of getting a stroke were 29% less when they had a higher consumption of chocolate.

2. It may help improve your memory as you get older

Research has shown that when elderly people were given specially prepared cocoa extracts which was high in flavanols, their cognitive function greatly improved. The only problem is that when it comes to eating chocolate, the percentage of those cocoa flavanols is much reduced due to the processing and the addition of eggs, sugar and milk.

3. It can help to avoid sunburn

One study conducted in London found that women who were given chocolate with a high flavanol content were able to withstand double the amount of UV light on their skins without burning, compared to those on lower doses.

4. It may make you better at math

I was never good at math at school. Maybe I should have eaten more dark chocolate! This is the startling conclusion I have reached after reading about the research of Professor David Kennedy who is Director of Brain, Performance and Nutrition at the Research Center of Northumbria University (UK). Participants were given 500 mg of flavanols in a hot cocoa drink. They benefited from increased flow to the brain as a result and were better at coping with difficult math equations.

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5. It may put you in a better mood

I wish my uncle had given my aunt some chocolate when he told her to stop crying and to ‘cheer up.’ He obviously had not read about the work at the University of Swinburne in Australia. These guys again targeted the cocoa polyphenols and they found that it had a beneficial effect on the mood of the participants who were calmer and happier.

6. It may help lower cholesterol levels

The Journal of Nutrition carries an interesting article about the results of a study done to determine whether dark chocolate could have any effect on the LDL cholesterol levels. They found that when subjects were given bars of dark chocolate with plant sterols and flavanols, they were getting lower scores on their cholesterol levels.

7. It may help people with Alzheimer’s disease

As we know, the nerve pathways to the brain get damaged when Alzheimer’s disease strikes, causing severe loss in certain mental functions. It is fascinating to read about how one extract from cocoa, called lavado, can actually reduce the damage done to these vital pathways.

8. It can help you with your workout

Another magical flavanol in chocolate is epicatechin. Mice were given this substance and they were much fitter and stronger than those mice on water only. Researchers say that to get the best results from your workout you have to limit the amount to only about half of one square of chocolate a day! If you have too much, it could undo the beneficial effects.

9. It is very nutritious

Did you know that if choose chocolate with a high cocoa content (75% to 85%) you are getting a very nutritious snack? Take the typical 100 gram chocolate bar. It has almost all of your RDA for copper and manganese. It contains over half your magnesium RDA and about two thirds (67%) of your RDA for iron. It also has about 10% of fiber. There is also lots of zinc, selenium and potassium too.

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10. It can help to lower your blood pressure

You may not know it but having the right amount of NO (Nitric Oxide) in your body can help your arteries to relax. That will, in turn help to take some of the pressure off them and the result is a lower BP count. Just another benefit of the dark chocolate flavanols which help to produce this vital Nitric Oxide.

11. It helps you produce more endorphins

When you are on a high, it may be due to excitement, love or after exercise. This high is due to the release of endorphins which are brain hormones. The great advantage of chocolate is that flavanols can also help in endorphin production without having to run a marathon! Endorphins play a key role in helping to prevent depression and other mental disorders.

12. It may reduce pregnancy complications

One of the complications of pregnancy is known as preeclampsia in which blood pressure can shoot up. Researchers have established that one of the chemicals in dark chocolate, theobromine, can stimulate the heart and help the arteries dilate. When pregnant women were given higher doses of chocolate, they had a 40% less chance of developing this complication.

13. It may help with diabetes

You probably think that chocolate is too sweet for diabetics and is one of their banned treats, but one small study at the University of L’Aquila in Italy found that the right does of chocolate flavonoids can help the body’s metabolism and enhance insulin function. This could benefit people with diabetes but more studies need to be done.

14. It may help you reduce your food cravings

You know the feeling: you cannot function until you have a snack. One of the healthiest is a piece of dark chocolate because it fills you up quicker and reduces craving for salty and sweet snacks, according to a small research study.

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15. It may help your cough

Another marvelous effect of the theobromine chemical in chocolate is that it can calm a troublesome cough. Manufacturers are looking at this to produce safer cough syrups instead of using codeine which has some undesirable side effects.

16. It may help with blood circulation

Normally you take an aspirin to help prevent blood clotting and to improve circulation. Studies now show that chocolate can have a similar effect.

17. It can also help you see better

University of Reading researchers were curious to see if dark chocolate flavanols could actually improve vision as they knew it certainly improved blood circulation in general. They decided to do a small experiment and gave two groups of volunteers some white and dark chocolate. The dark chocolate groups were doing better on vision tests afterwards.

18. It may help reduce fatigue

If you suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome you should try adding chocolate to your daily diet. One group of sufferers were given a daily dose of chocolate for two months. They were less tired and the best news of all is that they did not put on any extra weight.

19. It may help to lower your Body Mass Index

There has been a lot of emphasis on how chocolate can actually reduce your BMI (Body Mass Index) which is how you measure up as regards your height versus your weight. One study took 1,000 Californians and they found that those who ate chocolate more often during the week had a lower BMI. Overall diet and exercise regimes were not factors which influenced this result.

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20. It may help reduce your chances of getting cancer

As we have mentioned, the cocoa flavanols in dark chocolate have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. These are important in keeping the actions of free radicals at bay. As we know, these are the protagonists when cancer starts to invade cells.

Now that you have finished the list, why not have a piece of dark chocolate and enjoy it? Remember, the darker the better!

Featured photo credit: Life is like a box of chocolates/ Memphis CVB via flickr.com

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Robert Locke

Freelance writer

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Last Updated on October 16, 2018

The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

It’s well past midnight and you’ve got to get up in less than six hours. You toss and turn all night. Before you know it, another hour passes by and you start panicking.

If I don’t get to sleep in the next 30 minutes, I’m going to be exhausted tomorrow!”

One thing is for sure, you’re not alone. Over 70M+ Americans have stated that they don’t get the proper sleep they need at night.[1] So what could possibly be causing this insomnia epidemic?

Throughout my entrepreneurial journey of building my language learning company, I have experimented and researched dozens of best sleep practices. Some have flopped but a few have dramatically improved the quality of my life and work.

In this article, I’ll look into the reason why you’re sleep deprived and how to sleep through the night tonight.

Why you can’t sleep through the night

The first step to improving anything is getting to the bottom of the root problem. Different studies have shown the reasons why most people cannot sleep well at night.[2] Here are the main ones that the average person faces:

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Stress

If you’ve ever stayed up at night worrying about something, know that it’s a major sleep inhibitor. When you’re feeling stress, your mind and body becomes more activated, making it incredibly difficult to fall asleep. Even when you do manage to sleep, it won’t be deep enough to help you feel rested the next day.

Exposure to blue light before sleep time

We’re exposed to harmful blue light on a daily basis through the use of our digital screens. If you’ve never heard of blue light, it’s part of the visible light spectrum that suppresses melatonin, our sleep hormones. Other harmful effects include digital eye strains and macular cellular damage.

While daytime exposure to blue light is not very harmful, night time exposure tricks our brain into thinking it’s daytime. By keeping your brain alert and suppressing melatonin, your mind is unable to shut down and relax before bedtime.

Eating close to bedtime

Eating too late can actually be an issue for many people, especially those who are older than 40. The reason is, eating before laying down increases the chances of Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which stomach acid backflows into the esophagus.

Another reason not to eat too late is sleep quality. Even if you manage to sleep right after eating, it’s likely that you’ll wake up tired. Instead of letting your body rest during sleep, it has to digest the food that was entered before bedtime.

Rule of thumb: eat 3-4 hours before bedtime.

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Medical conditions

In some cases, it could be medical conditions that cause your sleep problems. If you can’t relate yourself to the above reasons or any of these common sleep problem causes, you should visit the doctor.

The vicious sleep cycle

The biggest danger to repeating the bad habits mentioned above is the negative cycle that it can take you through. A bad night’s sleep can affect not only your energy but your willpower and decision making skills.

Here’s an example of a bad sleep pattern:

You get a bad night’s sleep
–> You feel tired and stressful throughout the day.
–> You compensate it with unhealthy habits (for example junk food, skipping exercises, watching Netflix etc.)
–> You can’t sleep well (again) the next night.

    You can imagine what could happen if this cycle repeats over a longer period of time.

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    How to sleep better (throughout the night)

    To help you break the vicious cycle and stop waking up in the middle of the night, I’ll explain to you a list of actionable steps to solve your trouble staying asleep.

    1. Take control over the last 90 minutes of your night

    What you do (or don’t do) before bedtime have significant impact on the quality of your sleep. Many times, it can be the difference between staying up until 4am and sleeping like a baby.

    Here are a few suggestions:

    • Go from light to dark – Darkness stimulates production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Turn off unused light around the house, and think about investing into warm light that you can use in the bedroom before bedtime.
    • Avoid screens (or wear blue light blocking glasses) – Keep the bedroom a technology-free zone as the light from electronic devices can disturb your sleep. If you need to work, wear blue light blocking glasses (also known as computer glasses) throughout or before you sleep to prevent sleep disruption.
    • Find an activity that helps you to wind down  This could be anything that calms you down, and reduces thinking (especially unnecessary stress). Fir example, listening to soothing/good feel music, taking a hot bath, reading or meditating.
    • Keep any electronics you have on the other side of the room or outside the room – One of the most harmful things that can disrupt your sleep is the notifications you get from your smartphones. The simplest way to avoid this is to keep it away from you.
    • Create a bedtime routine – A night routine is a couple of things you do prior to going to bed. By doing these things every night, you’ll have a more restful and high-quality sleep. Learn how to pick up a night routine here: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide to Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

    2. Eat the right nutrients (and avoid the wrong ones)

    What you eat (not just when we eat) plays a critical role in your sleep quality. If you’re ever in doubt of what to eat to improve your sleep, take the following into consideration:

    • Kiwi – This green fruit may be the ultimate pre-bed snack. When volunteers ate two kiwis an hour before hitting the hay, they slept almost a full extra hour. Kiwis are full of vitamins C and E, serotonin and folate—all of which may help you snooze.
    • Soy foods – Foods made with soy such as tofu, miso and edamame, are rich in isoflavones. These compounds increase the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that influences the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
    • Fiber-rich foods – Eating more fiber could be key for better sleep. Eating fiber was associated with more restorative slow-wave sleep—the more you eat, the better you sleep—per a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Fiber prevents blood sugar surges that may lower melatonin. Get a fiber boost from beans, artichokes, bran cereal and quinoa.
    • Salmon – Most fish, especially salmon, halibut and tuna boost vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin— a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness.

    3. Adjust your sleep temperature

    Once you’ve gone through the first 2 recommendations, the last step to experiment with is temperature. According to Sleep.org, the ideal temperature for sleep is 60-67 Farenheit. This may be cooler than what most people are used to, but keep in mind that our body temperature changes once we fall asleep.

    Rule of thumb: sleeping in cooler temperature is better for sleep quality than warmer temperature.

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    Find out how to maintain the optimal temperature to sleep better here: How to Sleep Faster with the Best Temperature

    Sleep better form now on

    Congrats on making it to the end of this guide on sleep. If you’re serious about taking the necessary steps in improving your sleep, remember to take it one step at a time.

    I recommend trying just one of the steps mentioned such as taking a hot bath, blocking out blue light at night, or sleeping in cooler temperature. From there, see how it impacts your sleep quality and you can keep doing what works, and throw away what doesn’t.

    As long as you follow these steps cautiously and diligently, I know you’ll see improved results in your sleep!

    Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

    Reference

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