Halloween isn’t until the end of the month, but I say go ahead and give into your chocolate craving — any time of year. In fact, research shows that indulging in chocolate several times a week provides five major health benefits. Including one that may really surprise you.
But before I get into those important findings, I wanted to share with you a little bit about chocolate’s fascinating history…
The long journey of chocolate
Chocolate is made from cacao beans (Theobroma cacao). Originally, the ancient Mayans and Aztecs in Mexico made a beverage with cacao beans. Of course, it wasn’t at all like today’s version of hot chocolate or cocoa.
Instead, it was a bitter liquid, which they also used in sauces and stews (similar to what we’d now recognize as Mexican mole).
After the Spanish brought cacao beans back to Europe from the Americas in the 1500s, the Dutch learned to separate the chocolate from the oil and fats (cocoa butter). What remained was a chocolate powder, ideal for mixing with water or milk.
By the 1800s, confectioners like Cadbury in the U.K. and Hershey in the U.S. started to incorporate the cocoa butter fat back in with the cocoa powder. They then added sugar to make what we now know as chocolate candy.
Today, you can find a range of chocolates on grocery store shelves — from milk chocolate with relatively low cacao content to dark chocolate with up to 85 percent cacao.
Of course, I always recommend opting for dark chocolate with at least 65 to 85 percent cacao. And the higher the percentage, the better. This kind of dark chocolate contains more of the beneficial compounds…and much less sugar.
Now, let’s talk about how eating this delicious treat can offer up some impressive — and surprising — health benefits.
Eating chocolate actually helps you stay slim
If you’re trying to lose weight, you might have been told that you have to give up chocolate. But eating it might actually help you maintain a healthier body weight! In fact, several studies now link eating chocolate to lower obesity and body mass index (BMI) rates.
In one recent study, researchers from the University of California, San Diego followed approximately 1,000 healthy adults. They found that men and women who ate moderate amounts of chocolate five days per week had a lower BMI than those who strictly avoided it. Plus, the chocolate-lovers ate more total calories and exercised less…yet they still maintained lower BMIs.
In a similar study at the University of Grenada, Spain, researchers found that adolescents who ate the most chocolate also had lower BMIs than those who didn’t eat much chocolate.
In both studies, the researchers attributed the BMI-lowering success of chocolate to the catechins. Catechins are antioxidants found in chocolate. They appear to help improve lean muscle mass and reduce weight. And dark chocolate contains more of these beneficial catechins than milk chocolate. Other natural sources like coffee and tea also contain these potent, fat-burning antioxidants.
Of course, chocolate also has a host of cardiovascular benefits…
Eating chocolate reduces stroke and heart attack risk
Research shows that compounds in chocolate, such as polyphenols, help improve circulation and prevent blood clots. So, men and women who eat chocolate also tend to have fewer cardiovascular problems.
In fact, about eight years ago, German researchers studied the effects of eating just two ounces of chocolate per day among 20,000 people. Turns out these chocolate-eaters reduced their risk of heart attack and stroke by a whopping 39 percent.
Plus, in a large review published the British Medical Journal a few years back, researchers found that men and women who ate the most chocolate had a 29 percent reduced risk of stroke compared to those who ate the least amount of chocolate. Plus, they had a 37 percent lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Two more recent studies focused particularly on women. In the first study, which came out of Sweden, women who ate 1.5 ounces or more of chocolate per week reduced their risk of stroke by 20 percent compared to women who ate less than a third of an ounce every week.
In the second study, Australian researchers observed women participants for 10 years. They found that older women who ate chocolate at least once a week reduced their heart disease mortality risk by 60 percent.
We also have good news about chocolate’s effect on cancer…
Chocolate may protect against cancer
In a recent animal study, researchers studied cacao’s effect on mice exposed to cancer-causing carcinogens. The mice fed 12 percent cacao content for eight weeks had fewer occurrences of colon cancer. The researchers believe chocolate’s high polyphenol content is responsible for its anti-cancer effects.
And when it comes to chocolate’s effects on brain health, the news is just as “sweet”…
The tastiest way to boost your memory
In one study, older men and women with mild cognitive impairment who drank a dairy-based cocoa drink showed significant improvement in memory after just eight weeks.
Researchers believe flavanols protect nerve cells, improve transmission of brain signals, and increase blood flow to brain tissue. (You can learn about all the other natural approaches to preventing and reversing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in my online learning protocol, Dr. Micozzi’s Complete Alzheimer’s Cure. Click here to learn more or to enroll today.)
And now onto the most surprising recent finding about chocolate…
Eating chocolate improves blood sugar control
I find most people with Type II diabetes think they can never eat chocolate again. What a terrible misconception!
It turns out, indulging in dark chocolate a few times a week may actually help improve blood sugar control…
In a recent Italian study, researchers found that chocolate increases the metabolism of glucose in the blood, which would increase insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of Type II diabetes. This finding makes sense as chocolate is rich in flavonoids, which help reduce insulin resistance.
Again, just make sure to choose chocolate with at least 65 to 85 percent cacao. And the higher the percentage, the better!
So give dark chocolate a try. And not just on Halloween. It’s okay to have a little as your go-to, after-dinner treat a few nights a week. And the fact that your waistline, heart, brain, and blood sugar will benefit sweetens the deal even more!
P.S. Of course, there are many first-line treatments I’d first consider for managing your blood sugar. And you can learn all about these effective, safe, and natural remedies to prevent — and even reverse — Type II diabetes in my online protocol, Dr. Micozzi’s Integrative Protocol for Defeating Diabetes. Click here to learn more or enroll today.
- “Association Between More Frequent Chocolate Consumption and Lower Body Mass Index,” Archives of Internal Medicine, 2012; 172 (6): 519
- “Chocolate consumption in relation to blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease in German adults,” European Heart Journal, first published online: 30 March 2010
- “Preventive Effects of Cocoa and Cocoa Antioxidants in Colon Cancer,” Diseases, 2016 Mar 4; 4(1):6
- “Habitual chocolate intake and vascular disease: a prospective study of clinical outcomes in older women,” Arch Intern Med. 2010 Nov 8;170(20):1857-8
- “Chocolate consumption and cardiometabolic disorders: systematic review and meta-analysis,” BMJ 2011;343:d4488
- “Chocolate Consumption and Risk of Stroke in Women,” J Am Coll Cardiol. 2011;58(17):1828-1829