We all know the effects that chocolate can have on our waistlines. But recent research indicates that chocolate may also have some surprising effects on our hearts, brains and blood.
Chocolate is made from the beans of the cacao fruit. The beans are fermented, dried, roasted, ground and made into a paste. Chocolate has been prized for its medicinal properties since Aztec times.
Chocolate contains small amounts of trytophan, which helps the brain produce serotonin. Serotonin is a "feel-good" chemical that elevates mood. Eating chocolate also releases endorphins, which relieve stress and offer a natural "high."
Like red wine and green tea, chocolate contains high numbers of flavanoids, which are natural chemicals that protect the heart. The darker the chocolate, the more flavanoids it has.
According to the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) News Office, a 2003 study by UCSF scientists showed that small amounts of dark chocolate eaten daily help dilate blood vessels and ease hypertension.
Dark chocolate contains high amounts of magnesium, which is a mineral that indirectly helps the body metabolize food into energy.
The components added to chocolate to give it a better taste and texture often have detrimental effects on the body. Added fats contribute to obesity, and high sugar levels cause a spike in blood sugar, followed by a crash.