1. Lowers Blood Pressure. Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., director of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at Tufts University recently found that hypertensive people who ate 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate per day for two weeks saw their blood pressure drop significantly, according to an article in the journal Hypertension. Their bad cholesterol dropped, too.
• Antioxidant and Improves Cholesterol. Studies have shown heart benefits from increased blood flow, less platelet stickiness and clotting, and improved bad cholesterol," says Mary B. Engler, Ph.D., a chocolate researcher and director of the Cardiovascular and Genomics Graduate Program at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Nursing. These benefits are the result of cocoa's antioxidant chemicals known as flavonoids, which seem to prevent both cell damage and inflammation.
• Improves Skin. German researchers gave 24 women a half-cup of special extra-flavonoid-enriched cocoa every day. After three months, the women's skin was moister, smoother, and less scaly and red when exposed to ultraviolet light. The researchers think the flavonoids, which absorb UV light, help protect and increase blood flow to the skin, improving its appearance.
• Improves Brain Power. Preliminary research at West Virginia's Wheeling Jesuit University suggests chocolate may boost your memory, attention span, reaction time, and problem-solving skills by increasing blood flow to the brain. Chocolate companies found comparable gains in similar research on healthy young women and on elderly people.
• Mood Enhancer. According to the research of Dr. Stephen Warren, M. D., dark chocolate is loaded with key neurotransmitters like tryptophan, serotonin and dopamine. These nutrient chemicals in cocoa can lower the risk of depression, as well as suppress one's appetite and block the pathway that leads to food cravings. Additionally, phenyl ethylamine (PEA) improves mood, which in turn decreases food cravings. Food addiction is like drug addiction; consequently, cocoa can minimize food cravings and addictions by delivering the right chemicals.
"Chemically speaking, chocolate really is the world's perfect food. "
Michael Levine, nutrition researcher
Now not just any chocolate will do. I recommend high quality chocolate with a cacao content of 70% or more. I also like to find chocolate that has "whole" sugar in it (i. e. evaporated cane juice, raw cane sugar). My favorite is Green & Black's 85%. They also have a 70%. Theo is another favorite brand. Both are available at Fred Meyer. The Co-op has Equal Exchange and a large variety of other brands if you want to experiment with something new.
"All of the evil that people have thrust upon chocolate is really more deserved by milk chocolate, which is essentially contaminated. The closer you get to a pure chocolate liquor (the chocolate essence ground from roasted cacao beans) the purer it is, the more satisfying it is, the safer it is, and the healthier it is." - Arnold Ismach, The Darker Side of Chocolate