Perhaps justifying our lust for chocolate is the reason scientists have spent so much time studying it. After all, we like to be told that dark chocolate improves blood flow, lowers bad cholesterols, and elevates mood while reducing stress. But it turns out there are more reasons why you should help yourself to some of the good stuff.
Throw Out Your Cough Drops
Seriously, I’ll take a creamy truffle over a menthol-flavored cough drop any day. And now it sounds as if you can. In a small British study conducted in 2005, participants were asked to inhale capsaicin, the stuff that gives chili peppers their sting. A variety of proposed remedies were tested, and the most effective one turned out to be hot chocolate. Researchers found that theobromine, a compound found in cacoa seeds that acts like caffeine in the human body, was more effective than codeine to stop coughing. So next time you’re under the weather, test this theory by taking two (squares of chocolate, that is) and calling the doc in the morning.
Just kidding. Although scientists in Germany discovered that ingesting the cocoa solids and flavonoids present in dark chocolate can defend our skin against the effects of UV rays, effectively staving off skin cancer. Not only that, but the study participants receiving cocoa every day noted smoother, moister skin with fewer rough patches. This caused researchers to speculate that there might be benefit to adding the ingredient to beauty products. So if you’ve ever eaten a death-by-chocolate dessert and thought, “I could absolutely bathe in this,” it sounds like maybe you should.
Add Chocolate to Your Diet Plan
Now the founders of Weight Watchers might not agree with us on this one, but research conducted by an associate professor of medicine at UC San Diego suggests that healthy adults who eat chocolate more frequently tend to have lower body mass indexes than those who snack on it less often. This result occurred despite the fact that those who ate chocolate more often did not eat fewer calories or exercise more than other participants. The theory is that the metabolic benefits of eating modest amounts of chocolate might lead to reduced fat deposits and potentially offset the added calories. Are you excited yet?
Develop X-Ray Vision
That would be cool, wouldn’t it? But chocolate won’t make that happen. What it will do, however, is improve your ability to read light-colored words on a light-colored background, called “visual contrast sensitivity.” Furthermore, it an improve your ability to detect moving dots on a moving background, known as “motion sensitivity.” Study participants ate both white and dark chocolate at separate times and then took similar vision tests. Relative to white chocolate, testing the dark resulted in higher performance in both categories, as well as improved spacial memory. Think about it like this: driving at night is low-contrast, and images are hard to distinguish from one another. Increasing your ability to make out those objects also increases your safety, so we think what we’re hearing here is that chocolate can save your life.
Sixty percent of women in a recent British poll ranked chocolate as the most smile-worthy experience, ranking higher than the sight of other smiling people and even loved ones!
Tips for Finding the Chocolate That’s Actually Good for You
- Pick the chocolate containing the fewest ingredients possible.
- Cocoa solids or cocoa mass should be first one listed.
- Sugar should not be. Nor the second.
- Choose one that’s 72 percent cacao or above.
- Buy organic, since chocolate is a heavily-sprayed crop. In fact, seek out fair-trade and locally-sourced dark chocolate to get maximum health benefits.
- Dutch processed cocoas have alkalized the chocolate, removing some of the beneficial flavonols. It’s fine for baking but not as good for sipping.
- It sounds as if soy lecithin in chocolate is not so scary. Unless you’re allergic to soy, that is. We’ll talk about this more soon.
Oh, and FYI
Portion control is paramount to making a chocolate obsession work for you, so aim for half to one ounce per day, which is about a two-inch square of most chocolate bars.
Now aren’t you just dying to go do something delicious with chocolate?