Should you give your Valentine a Chocolate?

valentine chocolates

It’s that time of year again! There’s no denying the love in the air and the massive amounts of chocolate about to be given. But instead of mindless noshing of chocolate bars and delectable goodies that come in heart-shaped boxes, let’s remember the real reason why chocolate is so good – it’s actually good for us!

Chocolate is no stranger to science and studies show it has benefits for health, including both the heart and brain. This is partly due to the cocoa in chocolate, which is rich in polyphenols and flavonoids. Some chocolates contain more cocoa than others, and a general rule is that the darker the chocolate the more antioxidant benefit, but for any chocolate, here’s why the cocoa composition matters:

Cardiovascular Benefit

A review of cocoa and chocolate consumption published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed possible heart-healthy benefits, most likely due to the rich antioxidant-containing flavonoids found in cocoa and in some varieties of chocolate. Clinical and epidemiological studies have also linked flavonoid-rich cocoa to improved heart health biomarkers (1-3).

Cognitive Benefit

A little chocolate snack can seem like the perfect pick-me-up, and that’s because it is. It’s not just the delicious taste that seems to enhance mood, but cocoa’s exceptional concentration of polyphenols. A growing number of studies are confirming that for this reason cocoa consumption lifts mood and mental function (4).

For example, a study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology supports the link between improved mood and the intake of cocoa. Through a randomized controlled trial, researchers evaluated the consumption of chocolate and found it did have positive effects on “feel good” brain receptors due to the content of natural chemical compounds in the cocoa (5).

Keep in mind that not all chocolates are made with health in mind. Some sacrifice all for the sake of flavor in the form of high calories, saturated fat, and sugar. Really it’s all about moderation. Limiting yourself to 200g of quality chocolate a week is not only good for you, but is also a great way to satisfy your taste buds.

So buy your Valentine some chocolate – just check the cocoa content first!!!

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References

  1. Baba S, Natsume M, Yasuda A, Nakamura Y, Tamura T, Osakabe N, Kanegae M, Kondo K. Plasma LDL and HDL cholesterol and oxidized LDL concentrations are altered in normo- and hypercholesterolemic humans after intake of different levels of cocoa powder. J Nutr.  2007; 137: 1436–1441.
  2. Corti R, et al.  Contemporary Reviews in Cardiovascular Medicine: Cocoa and Cardiovascular Health. Circulation. 2009;119:1433-1441 doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.108.827022
  3. Andújar, I., Recio, M. C., Giner, R. M., & Ríos, J. L. (2012). Cocoa Polyphenols and Their Potential Benefits for Human Health. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2012, 906252. doi:10.1155/2012/906252
  4. Katz DL, Doughty K, Ali A. Cocoa and chocolate in human health and disease. Antioxidant and Redox Signaling. 2011;15(10):2779–2811.
  5. Pase MP, Scholey AB, Pipingas A, Kras M, Nolidin K, Gibbs A, Wesnes K, Stough C. Cocoa polyphenols enhance positive mood states but not cognitive performance: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. J Psychopharmacol. 2013 May;27(5):451-8.

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