Chocolate is often labelled as a cheat food, guilty pleasure, or rich dessert but these categorizations neglect its health benefits. To do chocolate some justice and give swimmers a couple excuses to eat this tasty treat, we’ve come up with 10 unexpected benefits that accompany chocolate consumption. The more chocolate is processed, the fewer health benefits accompany the product. For this reason, health experts often recommend consuming varieties of unsweeted, raw dark chocolate. However, processed chocolate can still bring a superfood boost, provided there aren’t too many additives.
1. High in Antioxidants
Flavanols, naturally-occurring compounds that occur in plant foods like cocoa, act as antioxidants and help to counteract free radicals in the body.
2. Blood Pressure Benefits
Dark chocolate has been shown to lower blood pressure in people with high stress levels or chronically elevated blood pressure.
3. Lower LDL Cholesterol
Eating dark chocolate on a regular basis has been attributed with reduction in LDL cholesterol by as much as 10%.
4. Natural Anti-Depressant
Chocolate is rich in seretonin, a natural anti-depressant. Eating chocolate also stimulates endorphin production, creating feelings of pleasure and satisfaction.
5. It May Fight Cancer
Chocolate has been found to inhibit cell division and reduce inflammation in patients which may be correlated with lower risks of cancer and reduced cancer severity in patients.
6. Prevents Tooth Decay
Theobromine, a natural component of chocolate, prevents tooth decay by eliminating the oral cavity bacteria, streptococcus mutans, that contributes to tooth decay.
7. Longer Life
A Dutch study followed 200 men over 20 years and found that large chocolate consumers lived longer than those who did not. Harvard used similar methods and found the same results. Learn more about chocolate’s secrets of longevity here.
8. Less Disease
The same Harvard and Dutch studies have attributed chocolate to lower disease contraction and consequential longer lifespans.
9. High in Magnesium
Cacao is extremely high in magnesium, an important mineral that helps to regulate the digestive, neurological, and cardiovascular systems.
10. Brain Health
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that red wine and dark chocolate can protect the brain following a stroke by shielding nerve cells from further damage.
11. Higher Intelligence
A study at California’s Salk Institute found that epicatechin, a chemical in chocolate, may improve memory.
12. Cough Relief for Swimmers
An ingredient in chocolate may actually be a more effective cough medicine than traditional remedies, a new study suggests. And not only that, a UK-based research showed that the cocoa-derived compound had none of the side effects associated with standard drug treatments for persistent coughs.
13. Sun Protection
London researchers found that after 3 months of eating chocolate with high levels of flavanols, their subjects’ skin took twice as long to develop reddening associated with the beginning of a burn.
14. Reduced Stress
Swiss scientists found that when people with high anxiety levels ate an ounce and a half of dark chocolate every day for two weeks, their stress levels were significantly lower and the metabolic effects of stress were partially mitigated.
15. Diabetes Prevention
Theobromine, which occurs in high levels in chocolate, has been found to quiet coughs and soothe throats without the traditional side effects of medication.
16. Insulin Regulation
Frequent consumers of chocolate have been correlated with higher insulin regulation and response.
17. A Healthier Heart for Swimmers
In a 9-year Sweedish study of more than 31,000 women, those who ate one to two servings of dark chocolate each week were 33% less likely to experience heart failure.
18. Healthy Fats
Chocolate contains Oleic acid, a healthy monosaturated fat that is also found in olive oil.
19. It Improves Vision
Chocolate improves blood flow particularly to the brain and the retina, allowing consumers to experience better shortterm vision.
20. Improves Blood Flow
Cocoa has anti-clotting and blood-thinning properties that work in a similar way to aspirin, which can improve blood flow and increase circulation.
Bri Groves, Swimming World College Intern
All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.