You know chocolate tastes great, but now science has delivered the best news yet: Dark chocolate may just be nature’s perfect superfood.

The discovery that chocolate is a healthy food is relatively new for our modern culture that has always treated it as a sinful indulgence. But the civilizations of Mesoamerica were using chocolate medicinally as early as the 7th century B.C. Evidence of its use in the diet go back as far as 1800 B.C.

The etymology of the word “chocolate” goes back to the ancient Mayans and Aztecs who drank a bitter brew made from cacao beans that was called xocoatl, which means bitter water. They called it that because, although we think of chocolate as a sweet, it is not sweet until you add sugar. Pure chocolate is bitter, and that’s good, because the bitterness comes from the flavonoids, and it’s the flavonoids that make chocolate a superfood.

That chocolate is a health food and not a junk food seemed inconceivable until as recently as less than two decades ago when the first studies began to trickle in. Now, the studies are pouring in, and the medical journals are full of research on dark chocolate.

The first hint came in a Journal of Nutrition article that described chocolate for the first time as a food that may increase antioxidant activity and may actually be good for your heart. The cautious hint was exciting enough for the New York Times to write a story on it in October of 2000, and the preliminary idea of chocolate as a health food entered our cultural consciousness.

At the time of the New York Times article, not a single double-blind, placebo-controlled study had ever been done on chocolate. All that has changed. The double-blind research overwhelmingly supports the early suggestion that dark chocolate is good for your heart. But that’s not all it supports. The science clearly shows that dark chocolate is an important health food for diabetes too. And the news just keeps getting better and better.

Chocolate is Good for Your Heart

The serious science of dark chocolate as a health food began with the 2003 publication of the finding that flavanol-rich chocolate increases nitric oxide with the desirable effect that the blood vessels dilate. Since then, studies have shown that dark chocolate can prevent cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, stroke, and protect you from dying from a heart attack.

Chocolate benefits heart health in many ways. Dark chocolate significantly lowers blood pressure in people who have high blood pressure and even in people who struggle with obesity as well as high blood pressure. Dark chocolate also improves arterial elasticity, blood vessel dilation and blood flow even in people with congestive heart failure who have been unresponsive to drugs. Eating dark chocolate also benefits atherosclerosis and has impressive effects on cholesterol.

Chocolate Benefits Diabetics

Chocolate is the paradigm of delicacies and sweets. So, even if eating chocolate is good for your heart, it surely must be terrible for diabetes. But the unbelievably good news is that, not only is dark chocolate not bad for diabetes, it’s really good for it: eating dark chocolate reduces your risk of diabetes.

Though it seems impossible, dark chocolate improves blood sugar by significantly lowering insulin resistance and significantly improving insulin sensitivity. Eating dark chocolate can also help diabetics decrease the higher risk of heart disease their diabetes brings with it.

Being overweight is an important risk factor for diabetes. But just as dark chocolate benefits obese people with high blood pressure, so it can have blood sugar benefits for people struggling with obesity. When obese people eat dark chocolate, their blood sugar levels go down significantly.

Chocolate Makes Your Brain Young Again

Science actually shows that chocolate can make you smarter. Seniors who eat dark chocolate have significantly better scores on tests of cognition and lower risk of cognitive decline. Amazingly, eating dark chocolate reverses age-related memory decline: it actually increases memory function. Double-blind research shows that dark chocolate improves cognitive scores, including processing speed, executive function, language and working memory, in seniors with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), which is huge because there are no drugs that effectively treat MCI. Chocolate’s cognitive powers are not confined to seniors. College students given dark chocolate perform significantly better on memory tests.

Chocolate Makes You Happy

You know that eating chocolate makes you happy. But chocolate doesn’t just make you happy because it’s such a pleasure eating it, it actually makes you happy because it’s so good for you to be eating it.

Eating dark chocolate can improve negative moods and reduce stress and anxiety by producing calmness and contentedness. It can also energize your mind and significantly improve mental fatigue. Chocolate may help you fight stress and anxiety at a very fundamental level: when exposed to stress, people given dark chocolate have lower levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline.

So, You Think it Makes You Fat

Okay, you say, chocolate has health benefits, but what good is that because eating it will make me fat. But, will it? At least half a dozen studies say it won’t, and the news is even better than that. Not only will eating dark chocolate not make you fat, it will help you lose weight. Read that again: the words won’t change. Eating dark chocolate helps you lose weight.

This holiday season enjoy dessert…just make good choices! You will see the benefits of this amazing superfood by choosing dark chocolate!

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