Mental Health Matters: Choose chocolate for mental and physical health
We can almost hear you now:
“Here we go again, more preaching about fun-food we actually enjoy and how it is going to kill us and ruin our mental health!”
Yes. And, strangely enough, no.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, countries with more chocolate consumers produced more Nobel Prize winners — and the study links chocolate consumption to better cognitive abilities.
This and other studies have shown chocolate not only improves brain function, but has several other health benefits as well.
KTW readers know better brain and overall health mean much better mental health.
So, why are we not told to eat more chocolate? Like the old expression goes, “The left hand giveth and the right hand taketh away.”
Here is the dilemma: Not all chocolate is good for you.
The sugar-rich, high-calorie, processed and popular milk chocolate (most common at Easter and on Valentine’s Day) is actually very unhealthy and provides no health benefits at all — except for fun and that is at least something.
It is cocoa-based chocolate, or dark chocolate, that has at least 70 per cent cocoa content — and, preferably, no added sugar — that has health and mental-health benefits.
Dark chocolate comes from the seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree and, like tea, it is high in flavanols, which are praised for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Choose a flavanol-rich dark chocolate for Easter.
Granted, it is an acquired taste and many people (especially kids on Easter morning) will not thank you for the dark chocolate, but that is the time to start teaching children to appreciate and enjoy the healthy version over the high-cholesterol, high-fat, high-sugar milk chocolate.
Studies show that if women consume one ounce of high-quality dark chocolate three times a month, they will have a 26 per cent lower risk of developing heart failure. One to two servings a week lowered the risk to by 32 per cent. After that, health benefits are replaced by health risks and moderation is the key.
People who had dark chocolate regularly saw their blood pressure drop and the risk and occurrence of stroke reduced significantly.
Dark chocolate also appears to lower cholesterol — a huge surprise to the medical community when this was discovered, causing those in the science field to re-think lipids and fats.
Cocoa intake has also been found to dramatically improve mood, although the risk is that people will start to self-medicate mood with high-calorie chocolate.
Too much chocolate at one time or consumed too often will cause a sugar low and mild depression.
As if that is not enough positive impact, people with mild cognitive impairment appear to benefit from upping their chocolate intake.
And, strangely enough, those who regularly ate dark, cocoa-rich chocolate were found to have a lower body-mass index.
Sorry if you like the sweet milk-chocolate treats because that stuff will kill you, but develop a taste for moderate amounts of dark chocolate — an ounce three times a month — and watch you physical and mental health improve!
Until next time, enjoy your dark chocolate treats this Easter and send us your questions or comments to email@example.com because we always love to hear from you.