Sunday, February 2, 2014

Give a Healthy Valentine

Studies continue to show the remarkable health benefits of dark chocolate (with 70% or higher cocoa content). Made from cocoa, it is loaded with health-promoting compounds that function as powerful antioxidants.  In fact, dark chocolate has been shown to contain more antioxidant activity than several well-known super fruits like blueberries and Acai berries.

Studies show that dark chocolate may improve blood flow, improve insulin resistance, lower blood pressure, raise “good” HDL cholesterol, lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, and protect LDL from unhealthy oxidation.

Additional observational studies have shown dark chocolate consumption is associated with an overall lower risk for cardiovascular disease. In addition to blood sugar and cardio-vascular benefits, human studies indicate the consumption of dark chocolate benefits human skin.  Cocoa consumers show a decrease in skin roughness and scaling, improved dermal blood circulation, and better “cosmetic” skin surface and hydration.

The flavonoid compounds that are high in cocoa and dark chocolate have also been associated with protection of brain function.  Specifically, the compounds appear to increase blood flow to gray matter, improve cognitive function, and help maintain cognitive health.  Other benefits include mood improvements, as brain serotonin and endorphin levels are boosted.

Sources: Dr. Pam Duitsman, nutrition and health education specialist, University of Missouri Extension.  (417) 881-8909.

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