Does eating chocolate have health benefits?

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Did you enjoy the Easter weekend and the chocolatey goodness that goes with it? If you’re reading this while surrounded by coloured foil and empty boxes, we have some good news for you. Chocolate is good for the body and mind.

Research in recent years has given us reason to reach for chocolate without feeling guilty. Did you know, for example, that resveratrol, which is an important compound in chocolate, can prolong your life? Jeanne Louise Calment lived until she was 122 and she enjoyed more than 1kg of chocolate a week. Harvard researchers found that eating chocolate can add two years to your life expectancy. And that just gives you more time to enjoy chocolate.

One of the biggest reasons to feel good about eating chocolate is the antioxidants it provides. Chocolate contains flavonoids, whose antioxidant properties can help fight strokes. In fact, a Swedish study found that eating more than 45 grams of chocolate per week, which is around two bars, led to a 20% decrease in stroke risk among women.

Cholesterol is a tricky subject to tackle. We often hear that we need to lower our cholesterol, but it’s not quite that simple. There is a “good” cholesterol (HDL) and a so-called “bad” variety (LDL). Chocolate is a good all-round solution for cholesterol. It serves to boost levels of HDL, while reducing the formation of LDL. It looks like we don’t need to worry about a future of popping cholesterol tablets.

Chocolate is also great for your heart. Eating chocolate can prevent blood clots, which then reduces the risk of heart attacks. It can also decrease your risk of heart disease, as it keeps blood inflammation-inducing proteins at bay.

Turning our eye to continental Europe for one moment, and they know a thing or two about healthy eating, research has also uncovered other benefits. Researchers from the University of Granada in Spain found that high chocolate intake among teenagers can be linked to lower levels of total fat compared to others who didn’t eat much chocolate. Meanwhile, a study in Italy found that eating chocolate increases insulin sensitivity, which can reduce the risk of diabetes.

Leaving long-term health benefits aside, chocolate is a great pick-me-up. It’s no coincidence that that you might get a nice mood boost whenever you eat chocolate. There is a chemical reason called anandamide, which temporarily blocks feelings of pain and depression. Chocolate produces this compound along with other chemicals that prolong this effect.

Growing up, we were told to bring a bar of chocolate into exams with us. Yes, it could brighten our mood after seeing the paper, but in the middle of a long exam it could also provide us with a much needed lift. Natural stimulants in chocolate can produce a boost in both physical and brain energy. Studies have shown that subjects had an easier time counting backwards from a randomly-generated number between 800 and 999 after drinking a cup of hot chocolate. If you’re studying, a bar of chocolate should be as much a part of your arsenal as your pens and highlighters.

It’s important to choose the right kind of chocolate. There are significant differences between dark and milk chocolate. And even with dark chocolate, some brands can be high in sugar, calories and unhealthy saturated fats. Too much of a good thing can be bad for you, so remember to eat chocolate in moderation. But at least you can feel better about it when you do.

In Short: It’s safe to say that we enjoyed Easter. Perhaps a little too much. But thankfully, we did some research and found that chocolate has real health benefits.

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Posts from the Harvey Norman blog team.

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