It’s just after the New Year, which means in most parts of the country, the store shelves are already stocked with Valentine’s Day chocolates. But before you thumb your nose at those sweet treats as part of your Resolutions, you might be surprised to learn that chocolate could actually extend your lifespan!
Before you get too excited and reach for those caramel-filled truffles, it is not all chocolate that is good for you. In fact, typical holiday bon-bons and milk chocolate candy bars still should be avoided. But, “semi-sweet” or dark chocolate, that is a horse of another color.
Research has found that dark chocolate contains levels of antioxidants high enough to significantly improve blood pressure and ward off inflammation and other conditions that shorten lifespan.
Dark chocolate boasts wide-ranging benefits, many of which have been found to boost the chances of reaching old age. For example, recent research conducted at Harvard found people who ate dark chocolate lived a year so longer than those who didn’t.
Even more interesting, their findings revealed that those who ate the equivalent of three bars of dark chocolate per month had a 36 percent lower risk of premature death.
The team of researchers established that eating dark chocolate on a regular basis was inversely related to cardiovascular or cancer-related mortality.
Why is Dark Chocolate and Antiaging Powerhouse?
The health benefits of dark chocolate have been attributed to its extraordinarily high flavonoid content, which confers significant antioxidant benefits.
Flavonoids are a group of compounds made by plants and have a similar shape and chemical structure to one another. Dietary flavonoids are found in the plants we eat, including many fruits and vegetables. Flavanols are a subgroup of the larger flavonoid group, found in a variety of plant-based drinks and foods, including tea, berries, apples, and in particular cocoa.
Decades of research show cocoa flavanols support heart, brain, and whole-body health by promoting healthy blood flow. They do this by acting on blood vessels, increasing the body’s production of a compound called nitric oxide (NO). NO causes the thin muscles in and around the blood vessel walls to relax, allowing the blood vessel to dilate or widen.
Generally speaking, the higher the cocoa concentration of dark chocolate, the more active compounds it contains.
“Some research suggests that dark chocolate may help lower the risk of heart disease, reduce inflammation and insulin resistance and improve brain function.”
In addition, the Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) Study shows cocoa flavanols preserved and even reversed age-related memory decline in healthy older adults!
The studies we have mentioned in these pages are just a small sampling of the wealth of scientific data relating to the antiaging and health and wellness benefits of dark chocolate.
But, remember, not all chocolate is created equal and has the high degree of flavanols required to bestow its health benefits. The darker, the better, and even among dark chocolates, look for the highest possible cocoa content — at least 80% or higher.