Enjoy the dark stuff
by Melissa Snyder
Jan 23, 2011 | 1725 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Chocolate is so popular we have National Chocolate Week each year to celebrate it.

In any form, shape or size it can make a bad day better. Thankfully, indulging in the sweet stuff has its benefits too.

According to science and research there are actually health benefits from dark chocolate — in moderation of course.

Since it is made from plants and because it is dark, it contains some of the good beneficial flavonoids, which act as antioxidants to protect us from free radicals.

These nasty free radicals can speed up aging and cause damage that leads to heart problems and heart disease.

Even though I prefer the taste of milk chocolate, I’ve traveled to the “dark side” and begun to enjoy dark chocolate since international researcher Mark Stibich, Ph.D., says dark chocolate contains an abundance of antioxidants, with about 8 times the number found in strawberries. That’s pretty impressive!

Most women I know have first-hand experience at the calming effect chocolate can present.

The ones doing the studies say it can relax blood pressure through producing nitric oxide and even balance specific hormones.

Now we know the answer to why I turn the house upside down looking for a piece when a craving hits. If the truth be known — most women probably have a “chocolate hiding place.” You know ... in case of emergencies.

A interesting study was done of 3,000 people at the Black Dog Institute, Prince of Wales Hospital in Australia showing the positive benefits chocolate can have on depression.

The researchers wanted to investigate the link between chocolate cravings and personality style as well as atypical depressive symptoms — revealing that certain depressed people craved chocolate while others did not.

This study wanted to determine if cravings were an indicator of specific personality or depressive symptoms.

In addition to being good for the heart and great for the taste buds, chocolate:

n stimulates endorphin production — which creates feelings of pleasure;

n contains serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant and can turn a bad day around; and

n contains theobromine, caffeine and substances which are stimulants for added energy.

For all of you milk chocolate lovers, take heed. Don’t mix it up, because in another study from the University of Glasgow and Italy’s National Institute for Food and Nutrition Research, consuming milk with dark chocolate canceled out the good stuff.

For the ones who have been limiting their chocolate consumption because it supposedly causes acne, forget it.

That’s probably been one of the biggest myths known to man. In moderation, it can actually increase blood flow to the skin. Yay! Good news for me and the rest of the chocoholics.

Now that we know better, we can enjoy it without feeling guilty. We can even come out of hiding and enjoy it out in the open.

To really enjoy the taste of the 300 compounds and chemicals found in each bite, do as the professional chocolate tasters do and appreciate the smell, appearance, texture, and taste.

This time of year is a good time to began appreciating it. With the winter months and dark days among us, a little dark candy may be just what we need to brighten the day and boost the mood.