Chocolate is one of my favorite foods; not only because it is tasty, but also because it's really good for your health.
The most recent evidence of this comes from an August study in the journal Neurology. Researchers found that chocolate may help older people keep their brains healthy and their thinking sharp. Study participants who drank two cups of cocoa daily for 30 days showed an 8.3 percent increase in blood flow to the brain, and they improved their scores on memory and thinking tests. Score!
This new finding is promising, but it's not the only health benefit that seems to come as a result of eating chocolate. Here are three more reasons why it's smart to keep chocolate in your diet.
- Heart Healthy — Daily chocolate consumption may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in some high-risk patients, according to a 2012 study in the journal BMJ.
- Potentially Slimming — If you've always thought of chocolate as a fat-inducing food, you may want to reacquaint yourself with this tasty treat. One study found that people who eat chocolate regularly are more likely to be thinner than those who don't. People in the study who admitted to eating chocolate five times per week or more had a lower BMI (Body Mass Index) than those who ate chocolate less frequently, according to the 2012 study published the journal Archives of Internal Medicine. [Top 10 Bad Things That Are Good For You]
- Appetite Control — Chocolate contains filling fiber, which is a natural appetite suppressant. So, if you give in to that chocolate craving, you may end up eating fewer calories than if you tried to avoid chocolate.
Although there are many reasons to enjoy chocolate, it's also important to be smart about your consumption. Here are some tips for choosing high-quality chocolate, so you can retain all of its nutritional goodness.
The darker the chocolate, the better for your health. Pure chocolate is actually quite bitter, which is why it is almost always combined with other ingredients in a chocolate bar. But the chocolate part of that bar is what contains the good stuff: fiber, magnesium and antioxidants.
Make your own hot cocoa. Hot cocoa that comes out of a packet is convenient, but it could be better for your health. To boost the nutritional profile of your hot cocoa, buy unsweetened powdered chocolate, and add your own sweetener. Also, keep it as dark as you can handle.
Get creative with cocoa. If you don't like the idea of eating a dark chocolate bar or drinking cocoa regularly, you have some other options. Try sprinkling powdered cocoa in your oatmeal or cold cereal.
Healthy Bites appears weekly on LiveScience. Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist and a health coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Read more tips on her blog, Health in a Hurry!