I am not a fan of placing catchy labels, and the pretentious name “superfood” is not in my daily lexicon. However, I have to admit that there are some food items or nutrients, which make the way to each and every my health related blog, such as Ginger, Marijuana, or Red Wine. This post I would like to devote to one more famous representative, matching this characteristic. This is Dark Chocolate.
A number of unscientific studies name chocolate the number-one craved food in America, so it makes sense that indulging in chocolate makes for a happy experience. And, as it turns out, there are some real reasons why that's so. For one, chocolate contains a number of substances that elevate mood, including fat, sugar, caffeine, phenylethylamine, flavonols, theobromine, and tryptophan.
Caffeine and theobromine are two naturally occurring stimulants found in chocolate. Along with sugar and fat, these substances provide a swift burst of energy and mood-lifting power. Chocolate also contains the mood-boosting compounds phenylethylamine, tyramine, tryptophan, and magnesium. While these substances are found in many other foods, even in higher concentrations, chocolate has an advantage because of its appeal on several sensory levels: it has a rich, mouth-pleasing texture; an intense taste; and an appealing aroma. For many of us, just the idea of indulging in chocolate is enough to elicit a positive emotional response.
In addition to these natural pick-me-ups, when you eat chocolate, a number of reactions occur, including the release of serotonin in the brain and mood-elevating endorphins in the body. This heady combination can result in a temporarily lifted mood and even a fleeting feeling of euphoria, which may explain why some people turn to chocolate when they're feeling blue.
Finally, cocoa is a natural source of antioxidant flavonoids, which increase blood flow (and thus oxygenation) in the brain, and which may contribute to better brain function.
Food of Gods
Cocoa, the seed of the cocoa tree was cultivated over 3000 years ago by the original inhabitants of Central America and Northern South America. The cocoa beans contain different types of physiologically active compounds, among others monomeric flavanols (epicatechin and catechin) and oligomeric procyanidins.
In America, of the many agricultural wonders produced, a few ultimately proved as popular as chocolate. In the Aztec’s Nahunta language, xocoate or cacahuate means “bitter water”. Cacao is also used today to designate the well known hot drink made from chocolate powder. The plant’s botanical name, Theobroma cacao, literally means “food of the gods.” No wonder there are so many devotees; chocolate is the star of functional foods. Eat like God, you need it.
Based on the knowledge acquired thus far, it would seem reasonable to suggest inhibition of the several phases of the complex processes leading to cancer, as a function of quantitative intake of antioxidants, including those from cocoa and chocolates. So far there are around 35 cancer research articles on chocolate. Most of them show the anti-inflammation effect, but a few also talk of the apoptosis and anti-angiogenesis effect. Among cancers, where the preventative effect has been observed are:
· Prostate cancer
· Breast cancer
· Colon cancer
· Liver cancer
· Lung cancer
· Pancreas cancer
The defense mechanism is not absolutely clear, but scientists suggest that Cocoa and dark chocolate are rich in flavonoids and antioxidants, chemical compounds that help protect against the harmful products of oxygen reactions (known as “free radicals”) in body tissues. These free radicals have been linked to the development of heart disease and some cancers.
For example, it was confirmed that epicatechins in cocoa may help prevent pancreatic cancer, according to a study published in the October 2012 issue of the "International Journal of Cancer." In the tissue-culture study, cocoa epicatechins slowed the growth of pancreatic cancer cells. In a laboratory animal arm of the study, doses of 25 milligrams per kilogram of body weight inhibited tumor growth. Researchers of a study published in the December 2011 issue of the journal "Molecular Nutrition and Food Research" observed a protective effect of cocoa against colon cancer. In the laboratory animal study, a coca-rich diet helped prevent colon cancer by decreasing oxidative stress and promoting early death of cancer cells.
Other Health Benefits
Besides mood elevation antidepressant properties and cancer prevention capabilities, dark chocolate has other multiple health benefits, and among them:
1. Prevents heart disease. Flavanols, antioxidant substances in dark chocolates prevents the chance of heart attack and completely protects the heart valves from the cholesterol deposit and increases blood flow.
2. Lower bad cholesterol. Daily intake of flavonoids from chocolate found that their LDL-cholesterol levels dropped, their blood vessels relaxed, and blood-clotting tendencies were diminished.
3. Elevate good cholesterol. Dark chocolate contains oleic acid, the same fatty acid found in olive oil, which increases levels of high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, the good form of cholesterol.
4. Protects our skin. Flavonoids, will absorb UV rays, and helps to protect and increase blood flow to the skin. It improves skin’s hydration and complexion.
5. Sugar levels regulation. When the blood sugar level rises, Insulin is released by pancreas to do the job of escorting the blood glucose into the cells. Repeated release of insulin due to too much sugary food causes the cells to resist the insulin from doing its job.
6. Stops the food cravings. Dark chocolate helps in reducing weight by stopping one’s inclination towards over-eating.
7. Anti-aging. An anti-oxidant rich food prevents cell damage, and protects from all types of cancer. These anti-oxidant rich dark chocolate prevents anti-aging too.
8. Hardens tooth enamel. Dark chocolate contains theobromine, which hardens tooth enamel. It also prevents the cavities causing tooth decay.
9. Lowers blood pressure. Flavanols in dark chocolates lowers the blood pressure level. Researchers proven that dark chocolates help in leveling the pressure of blood. It is good for both low pressure and high pressure patients.
10. Source of Vitamins and Minerals. Dark chocolate contains a number of vitamins and minerals that can support your health. Among them there are some of the following vitamins and minerals in high concentrations: Potassium, Copper, Magnesium, and Iron. The copper and potassium in dark chocolate help prevent against stroke and cardiovascular ailments. The iron in chocolate protects against iron deficiency anemia, and the magnesium in chocolate helps prevent type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Not all chocolate is created equal, though. For the best health and happiness benefits, go for good-quality dark chocolate with a cocoa level of 70 percent or higher. The more cocoa it contains, the higher the levels of healthy compounds, so the darker the chocolate, the better it is for you. Avoid mixing chocolate with milk because that will stop the apoptosis effect and will nullify cancer protection. Suggested Quantity: 40 g/day.
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