Chocolate is the food of the Gods. But, is it a food that is good for humans? Small amounts of dark chocolate can be good for you. So, what are the medical benefits of chocolate?
The primary medical benefits of chocolate lie in helping your heart. As little as 30 calories of dark chocolate (about the amount in a Hershey’s Kiss) can help your heart.
The primary study showed that 44 men and women had high blood pressure or borderline high blood pressure but were otherwise healthy. The group was divided into two groups. One group got the 30 calorie chocolate treat every day for 18 weeks. The other group got a 30 calorie piece of white chocolate which had neither chocolate liquor or cocoa.
The two groups were instructed to not to change their diets and to eat their treat 2 hours after dinner.
By the end of the study, the group that ate the dark chocolate had lowered their systolic blood pressure by an average of 3 points and their diastolic blood pressure by two points. The white chocolate group saw no change in their blood pressure levels.
While most of the literature on the medical benefits of chocolate focuses on heart health, there are other reasons to eat chocolate. But chocolate also has beneficial effects on your mood.
For instance, the carbohydrates in chocolate raise serotonin levels in the brain, resulting in a sense of well-being. One of the chemicals which causes the release of serotonin is tryptophan which is found in chocolate.
One of the neurotransmitters released by chocolate is phenylethylamine. This is also called “chocolate amphetamine” and it causes changes in blood pressure and blood-sugar levels leading to feelings of excitement and alertness. It works like amphetamines to increase mood and decrease depression, but it does not result in the same tolerance or addiction as illegal drugs do. Phenylethylamine is also called the “love drug” because it causes your pulse rate to quicken, resulting in a similar feeling as to when you are in love.
Next, the smell of chocolate may increase theta brain waves, resulting in relaxation. Endorphins are produced in the body in greater amounts when you eat chocolate. They increase optimism and decrease depression. An increase in endorphins also may decrease pain sensitivity.
Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine, a mild mood elevator. If you find yourself eating chocolate to cheer yourself up it may be because chocolate has a exceptionally high amount of phenylethylamine for a food. Phenylethylamine is a trace amine occurring naturally in our brains, where it releases dopamine in the mesolimbic centers for pleasure.
You should know that for all of the medical benefits of chocolate, it does have its drawbacks. That is not because chocolate itself is bad for you but because sugar is almost always added to it in commercial form. Sugar is terrible for you.
When you hear that chocolate causes acne, rots your teeth, or causes you to gain weight, the real culprit is the sugar that is added to sugar. You will have the same problems if you eat sweet treats that do not contain sugar.
There are many medical benefits of chocolate. Consuming chocolate in small quantities can be good for you.