For the past few months with COVID-19 and social distancing happening, we have been adjusting to a “new normal” and many of us are staying home.
Taking care of your mind as well as your body is crucial in this period. While you may feel anxious, worried, bored, or lonely while staying at home, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s perfectly human to feel this way and everyone has different ways to cope with the situation. In these trying times and under stressful circumstances, it can be easy to reach for foods for emotional comfort, so why not turn to chocolate to put a smile on our faces? Many studies have revealed that consuming dark chocolate can lower your risk of depression, and it’s been proven by science that cacao has many health benefits because of the following reasons (among many others):
1. A powerful source of antioxidants
Dark chocolate is rich with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants. One study showed that dark chocolate had more antioxidant activity, polyphenols, and flavonoids than any other fruits tested. Research has shown that after consuming dark chocolate, antioxidant capacity in the blood increased, which led to the opening of blood vessels and decreased blood pressure.
2. Dark chocolate intake can improve cognitive function
A study in 90 elderly participants investigated the effects of a high (~990 milligrams), intermediate (~520 milligrams), or low (~45 milligrams) cocoa flavanol doses. Researchers found that participants on the high flavanol track were able to complete cognitive tests much faster and scored better on verbal fluency test scores in comparison to those assigned to low flavanol supplementation.
3. Lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke
An analysis of five different studies demonstrated a nearly 20% stroke risk reduction when comparing a group of high consumers of dark chocolate (approximately 62.9 grams per week) to another group of low consumers. Another study in the US general population demonstrated that eating dark chocolate 5 times per week lowered coronary heart disease risk by 57%.
4. Skin protection
Dark chocolate promotes beautiful skin with its flavonoids content, which not only improves blood flow to the skin and in effect increases skin density and hydration, but also acts as a filter to harmful UV rays and therefore protecting your skin against sun damage. The minimal erythemal dose (MED) is the minimum amount of UVB rays required to cause redness in the skin 24 hours after exposure. In one study of 30 people, the MED more than doubled after consuming dark chocolate high in flavanols for 12 weeks.
5. Dark chocolate reduces stress
Preliminary studies demonstrate that dark chocolate consumption reduced discharge of cortisol and catecholamines, which are basically your body’s main stress hormones. Additionally, other researchers have shown that the consumption of dark chocolate buffered stress responses and reduced levels of perceived stress as assessed through a stress questionnaire.
With all these scientifically proven health benefits, dark chocolate can be definitely enjoyed as part of a balanced diet and should be part of your staple snack in the kitchen during the quarantine. Bonus point: There are many ways to get your daily cocoa intake other than simply from a chocolate bar. With more time at home, it’s the perfect chance to check out Cooking with Krakakoa video series and channel your inner chocolate connoisseur by trying out chocolate-based recipes like mochaccino, frozen hot chocolate, cookies, and chocolate barks.
If we can’t go out of the house these days, we might as well have fun and stave off boredom with this magical superfood called chocolate.