Women of the world can rejoice – an indulgent piece of dark chocolate has more benefits that just squelching a sweet tooth craving and stimulating a bored libido. No, this classic treat and well-known aphrodisiac is good for your heart’s health and –wait for it – your waistline.
Yes, you read that right – a new study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, completed a data analysis of more than one-thousand adults, examining their height, weight, activity level, nutrition habits and the amount of chocolate they regularly indulged in. The subjects who consumed chocolate most frequently had lower BMIs (body mass index.) This correlation was found independent of reduced calorie intake and increased physical activity.
The study did not control for a specific type of chocolate either. Although, it is important to note that to reap the heart-healthy benefits of chocolate, dark chocolate should be your chocolate of choice.
Experts link the health benefits to cacao found in chocolate, which is rich in flavanols, a powerful antioxidant. Chocolate is not currently labeled with its cacao content, but scientists estimate that most milk chocolate contains approximately 10 percent cacao, while traditional dark chocolate contains between 50 and 60 percent. Specialty stores are beginning to line their shelves with dark chocolates comprised of 100 percent cacao, however, no lab tests have been conducted on specific brands to determine the accuracy of these claims.
A study in 2007 found that approximately 30 calories of dark chocolate a day, rich in cacao, significantly reduced blood pressure, compared to subjects who consumed white chocolate or no chocolate at all.
Results like these make it tempting to give chocolate its own food group – but don’t start sectioning off large portions of your plate just yet. Moderation is key and excess calories add up. Fit this beneficial treat into your daily regimen in small increments (such as no more than 30 calories per day) along with a balanced diet and exercise – you will likely double the benefits of this fabulous “wonder food.”