Chocoholics rejoice… today – July 7th – is Chocolate Day, an awesomely indulgent holiday that requires no further explanation.
Not that any of the chocolate lovers we know need an excuse to rendezvous with a decadent square, bar, truffle or ganache, but for those who do need a guilty conscience pass here are 5 really good reasons to eat dark chocolate today and every day.
1. Healthier Skin
Want skin that’s smoother, less dried out, and more resistant to sunburn, then you should eat antioxidant-rich dark chocolate. The European Journal of Nutrition found that consistently eating cocoa for 12 weeks reduced moisture loss in skin by 25 percent.
2. Healthier Heart
Chocolate contains cocoa butter, which, it turns out, is not the saturated fat devil it’s made out to be. Like other forms of saturated fat, such as coconut oil, cocoa butter could actually be good for you. One-third of the fat in cocoa butter is stearic acid, which your liver converts to a healthy monounsaturated fat called oleic acid. Oleic acid actually lowers levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol and boosts levels of good (HDL).
What’s more? There are multiple anti-inflammatory compounds in cocoa that can contribute to heart health: they fight chronic vascular inflammation, improve flexibility in blood vessels thereby reducing your blood pressure, and keep platelets from sticking together and clogging up your artery walls.
3. Stay Sharp
MRI studies have shown that chocolate boosts blood circulation to the brain, which can improve your ability to focus. Taking a small amount of cocoa flavanols for five days led to better blood flow to the brain in healthy adults who were performing cognitive tasks.
4. Stress Less
A 2009 study found that people who ate 40 grams (about an ounce) of chocolate every day for two weeks saw decreases in levels of cortisol (triggers the accumulation of abdominal, or visceral, fat that builds up around organs and can contribute to depression, along with heart disease and stroke) in their systems. A 2010 study showed, over the course of 30 days, people who ate cocoa daily had 10 percent lower levels of anxiety and considered themselves 10 percent calmer than they had been at the start of the study.
5. Workout Better
Want to boost your pre-exercise energy levels, power through a hard sweat session, and cut down on post-workout soreness? Eat dark chocolate. Cocoa’s catechins and epicatechins, two kinds of antioxidants, increase your muscle’s absorption of nutrients that create energy, which can help you get energized to work out and help carry you through your workout. Likewise, the anti-inflammatory compounds in cocoa can produce up to a five-fold decrease in your perception of soreness, compared to drinking carb shakes or other muscle-recovery beverages. So after your next workout, put a few thumb-sized pieces of dark chocolate on your tongue and let them melt.