Because it’s healthy! The Greek translation of Theobroma, the name of the genus of cacao tree, literally means “food of the gods”. Not that this proves much (as it also just tastes really good) but when eaten in moderation, chocolate has many positive, documented health benefits. The first is that it is a potent antioxidant. A quick scan of the medical literature reveals over 300 studies correlating chocolate consumption with cardiovascular benefits. The cacao bioflavonoids help protect against inflammation in our vessels leading to heart attacks and stroke. And while not a substitute for regular exercise, many studies have shown an anti-hypertensive effect from chocolate. Yes, it lowers your blood pressure. Newer studies even show it may protect against insulin resistance (i.e. diabetes).
And cocoa works well with our brains as well! A study just this year showed cocoa to be neuroprotective (protects our brain/neurons), that it promotes new nerve growth, and (once again through the improved vessel health) it improves blood flow to our brain. The cocoa flavonoids actually penetrate the extremely selective Blood Brain Barrier (BBB) and accumulate in regions of the brain involved in learning and memory. Yes, chocolate can be part of your dementia prevention routine as it does improve cognition! And several studies have also shown either improvement in mood state or reduction of a negative mood as well as clear evidence of cognitive enhancement following the consumption of cocoa flavanols and methylxanthine (natural compounds in chocolate). I know I feel better after eating some.
Love, the heart, sex, Valentines Day, and chocolate. The cultural connection between love and chocolate is firmly rooted. And while love and sex are obviously not always synonymous, it turns out “science proves” that chocolate can have a direct effect on our sexuality. As expressed in another scientific article, the “Synergic effect of all these substances could have a positive direct and indirect influence on sexual health and function. Nevertheless, randomized studies are needed to confirm these hypotheses and to elaborate recommendations about cacao consumption.” Studies on sex and chocolate are needed? Indeed.
While chocolate should likely remain a small (but regular) indulgence as opposed to part of your daily meal, go ahead and eat that fairly-traded, shade-grown bitter pill, and know it’s good for you!