No doubt about it — chocolate is hot. And sensuous and seductive and very healthy! On World Chocolate Day let’s understand what makes chocolate so irresistible and how to choose right.
It is a Bonafide Mood Enhancer
Cocoa stimulates the secretion of endorphins, producing thus a pleasurable sensation, similar to what a jogger feels after running several miles. Additionally, it boosts brain levels of serotonin - the “happy” neurotransmitter - which is an anti-depressant; and it also has theobromine and phenylethylamine, both of which have a stimulating effect. Now you know why one bite and you are so gay!
Chocolate Has Nutrients Too!
Surprised? Well, chocolate contains essential trace elements and nutrients like iron, calcium, potassium, and vitamins A. B1, C, D, and E. So, even if it is not the lowest calorie snack around, it is not a source of just empty waist expanding calories.
Good for Heart
Chocolate is good for the heart (in more ways than just enhancing romance!). There is evidence that chocolates keep the blood pressure down and helps normalise blood flow to the heart; the potent phenolics in the chocolates do their bit too, to keep this super critical pump working fine. Also its a myth that chocolates lead to high cholesterol. As it is a product of plants, cocoa does not contain cholesterol. Be wary of ultra heavy and rich chocolates though.
The Antioxidants Benefit
Cocoa is chock-full of a wide range of antioxidant compounds called polyphenols, which help the body’s cells combat damage from free radicals (free radicals are formed in the body spurred by environmental pollution, stress, poor diet, alcohol and drug use, and smoking damage cells and accelerate ageing).
A Bonafide PMS Buster
It’s called the magnesium benefit. Chocolate is high in cocoa solids which is highest natural source for magnesium. The high magnesium content of chocolate is not just extremely beneficial for the cardiovascular system and hypertension; it also eases the PMS symptoms. The pre-menstrual drop in progesterone levels is responsible for the violent mood swings during PMS and adding magnesium to the diet increases pre-menstrual progesterone levels, thus reducing or eliminating the problem.
Chocolate is a powerful fighter of fatigue and it does give the consumer strength and energy. So it can be enjoyed as an occasional treat. Besides, indulging your chocolate craving from time to time can help prevent the bingeing that is a dieter's worst enemy.
How to Consume Chocolate?
- Remember darker the better. It's a fact that plain dark chocolate products containing 70% or more cocoa solids are the healthiest and a good way to satisfy a craving for chocolate, without consuming too much sugar and saturated fat. So when you want to indulge, choose the darkest, richest chocolate you can find. The higher the cocoa content the better is its health quotient.
- Good quality chocolates are made with cocoa butter, (heart healthy fat that has been shown to lower both total and LDL cholesterol). Remember, not all chocolate is made with cocoa butter, so be sure to read labels.
- Practice portion control. Try to stick to about 100 calories of dark chocolate daily, adjusting your calorie intake and exercise appropriately. Remember you won’t help your heart by gaining weight so (even though chocolate is good for you), and if you eat too much, and you might as well apply it directly to your hips.
Also although cocoa is found in many products, such as chocolate, the researchers said drinking it was the best way of harnessing its health benefits. This is because a bar of chocolate is usually high in saturated fats. Where as as cup or two of hot cocoa is a delicious, warm and healthy way to obtain more antioxidants ‘coz when warm the absorption and availability of the antioxidants in cocoa multiply exponentially (heat helps trigger release of more antioxidants).
(The author is a nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don't Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico) and Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa).
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