BY ANDREW MCDONALD
Easter (noun); annual festival when children, and some adults, gorge on sweet things. Also, the part of the Christian year commemorating Jesus of Nazareth’s crucifixion and resurrection. However, for the young, and youthful at heart, it means chocolate.
Yes, limiting sugar is important for health. Yet, at this point in the calendar, perhaps we can afford to enjoy ourselves just a little? For persuasion’s sake, how about some reasons chocolate is actually good for us?
Cocoa, the base substance of chocolate, contains blood pressure-reducing flavanols. Like ACE inhibitors, they stimulate production of nitrous oxide in blood. Research in Australia found regular consumption of cocoa reduces blood pressure both entering and exiting the heart.
Those helpful flavanols also dilate blood vessels. This may improve blood flow in the liver, thereby helping to prevent liver damage. Following up every bite of chocolate with a whiskey chaser probably still isn’t a good idea, though!
Polyphenols, chemicals found in cocoa, could lead to better cholesterol levels. Chocolate contains stearic acid, a saturated fat. However, unlike most saturates, stearic acid doesn’t raise cholesterol.
By lowering blood pressure, opening up blood vessels and reducing inflammation, chocolate can keep our hearts healthier. A study review demonstrated that of more than 114,000 people, those who ate most chocolate were 37% less likely to suffer coronary heart disease. Furthermore, they were 29% less like to have a stroke than those who ate least chocolate.
Chocolate makes you feel good too. Eating it releases endorphins and serotonin, the body’s own pleasure chemicals. In turn, people feel an upswing in their mood after eating cocoa products.
There is debate on whether chocolate increases the desire to exercise. Well, a wish to engage in a certain form of exercise. The Aztecs were the first people to ascribe aphrodisiac qualities to cocoa.
For those with their minds on higher things, cocoa also boosts brain power. Tests on older people in Norway found those who eat more chocolate, as well as drinking more tea and wine, had significantly higher cognitive performances than those who didn’t.
Now a quick quiz question to test cognition: Which country has the most Nobel laureates per capita?
Additional interesting fact: The Swiss are the world’s highest consumers of chocolate.
What are we to learn from this? Cocoa turns you into a genius. Maybe.
For those more concerned with their physique, chocolate also makes you slim. This doesn’t equate to eating gargantuan amounts of the stuff being a serious weight loss plan. However, research has demonstrated that people who eat chocolate a few times a week are typically thinner than those who don’t.
The above all comes with the key caveat of moderation. Consuming enormous quantities of chocolate isn’t an elixir for good health. It does, perhaps, offer a few reasons for losing the guilt whilst we indulge over Easter, though.