Americans buy more than 58 million pounds of chocolate around the holiday of love. Besides the delicious taste, smell and aphrodisiac effects, researchers are continually discovering more health benefits. Alzheimer’s and dementia patients are especially fond of sweets because the taste of sweetness is the last taste to disappear. So this Valentine’s Day create a special celebration with your loved one. Enjoy a steaming cup of delicious hot chocolate made with whole milk or rice or flax milk. Or indulge in a dark chocolate truffle, candy bar or chocolate ice cream. It’ll boost your spirit and your immunity. Just be careful not to overdo it because the calories can add up quickly. And keep in mind that the most nutritious chocolate is made with raw cacao. The second most nutritious is dark chocolate.
1. Chocolate comes from the cacao bean, which thrives in hot, rainy climates in South America, Africa and Indonesia. Similar to grapes, the local soil and climate affects the taste of the harvested beans. When you buy a chocolate bar that has the percentage number on the bar wrapper, that represents the weight that comes from the cacao bean content, according to Robert L. Wolke, author of What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained. The higher the number, the lower the percentage of sugar and the more bitter and complex the flavor, he says. And the higher the number the more antioxidants.
2. Cacao is rich in magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese, all essential minerals . . . and antioxidants that support immune health.
3. A 2012 report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that dark chocolate has a beneficial effect on blood pressure, vascular dilation and cholesterol levels, and can play a role in reducing metabolic precursors that lead to diabetes and eventually to heart disease.
4. In a study carried out by the University of L’Aquila in Italy, 90 elderly participants with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) drank cocoa containing high, medium or low levels of flavanoids. At the end of the eight-week study researchers found improvements in the motor response, working memory, task switching, and verbal memory in the participants who drank cocoa with a higher flavanol content. (Hypertension, Aug. 14, 2012)
5. Scientists have discovered why chocolate uplifts your mood. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter responsible for keeping us happy, and cacao stops the amino acid tryptophan from breaking down. Since tryptophan is one of the amino acids that make serotonin, this, in turn, limits the breakdown of serotonin. (Frontiers in Experimental Pharmacology and Drug Discovery, Dec. 1013)