Hearts and Flowers and 72% Dark Chocolate

sciencedaily.com

sciencedaily.com

My husband had a dozen red roses delivered to me about a month after we started dating. It was a sweet, romantic gesture that I’ll always remember. And on many Valentine’s Days after we were married, he’d have a dozen red roses delivered to me at my office. While I appreciated the beautiful flowers, I also paid the bills. And the following month, when I saw the outrageous price he’d paid for roses on Valentine’s Day, I’d cringe. He wouldn’t be deterred, but now that I work from home (and earn far, far less than I used to), I’ve convinced him to curtail the rose deliveries. Besides, wouldn’t you rather have chocolate?

According to a new study, eating chocolate can help you stay thin. What? Is this an early April fool? Nope, researchers at the University of California-San Diego found that people who frequently eat chocolate have lower body-mass indexes than people who don’t. Other evidence suggests that chocolate can ward off strokes, heart attacks, and diabetes. So here are ten reasons to indulge tomorrow (unless you gave it up for Lent, not realizing that Lent starts today – oops).

1. Chocolate decreases stroke risk. A Swedish study found that eating more than 45 grams of chocolate per week—about one and a half ounces—led to a small decrease in stroke risk among women. Chocolate contains flavonoids, whose antioxidant properties help fight strokes, according to the study’s author.

2. Chocolate reduces the likelihood of a heart attack. Other studies have shown that eating small amounts of chocolate prevents blood clots, which in turn reduces the risk of heart attacks. Blood platelets clump together more slowly in chocolate eaters, the studies say.

3. Chocolate protects against blood inflammation. Eat one small dark chocolate bar per week, and your risk of heart disease will decrease, according to a 2008 study. About a quarter-ounce of dark chocolate per day keeps the blood inflammation-inducing proteins away.

4. Chocolate helps with math. This is true! Flavanols (a class of flavonoids found in chocolate) helped people with their mental math. The findings suggest students who eat chocolate before an exam may gain a real benefit from doing so, according to the British Telegraph.

5. Chocolate may prevent cancer. Cocoa contains a compound called pentameric procyanidin, or pentamer, which disrupts cancer cells’ ability to spread. When researchers from Georgetown University treated cancer cells with pentamer back in 2005, the proteins necessary for cancer growth were suppressed and the cells stopped dividing.

6. Chocolate is good for your skin. Remember when you were a teenager and everyone thought chocolate led to acne? Well, not only does it not cause breakouts, dark chocolate is actually good for your skin! Flavonoids found in dark chocolate protect women’s skin from the sun’s UV rays, according to German researchers. But that doesn’t mean you should skip the sunscreen.

7. Chocolate can control coughs. One of chocolate’s chemical components, theobromine, seems to reduce the activity of the vagus nerve, the part of the brain that triggers coughing fits. Next up? Chocolate cough syrup – way better than that orange stuff my mother forced down my throat.

8. Chocolate may improve blood flow. In 2008, test subjects of a Harvard study ate large amounts of chocolate for two weeks (oh, poor things). Fourteen days of pigging out on chocolate, they found, sped up blood flow through the subjects’ middle cerebral arteries. In other words, more chocolate means more blood to your brain.

9. Chocolate strengthens your brain. Researchers found that dark chocolate shields cells in your brain, and protects the brain from damage caused by stroke. Epicatechin, a compound found in chocolate, significantly reduced the brain damage in mice who suffered strokes and that same compound improved mice’s memories.

10. Chocolate makes you live longer. Jeanne Louise Calment lived to the age of 122. Supposedly, she ate two and a half pounds of dark chocolate each week. So if I follow Madame Calment’s example, I could be around for my 100-year college reunion.

But don’t just buy any old chocolate. Most of the chocolate you buy in the grocery store is heavily processed, which means that it has lost many of its healthy chemicals. Buy the good stuff. A small amount of good, dark chocolate (look for 72% cacao or higher on the label) is best. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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