Benefits of chocolate

Courtesy Gail "thepinkpeppercorn" via flickr
Courtesy Gail “thepinkpeppercorn” via flickr

Chocolate is a tasty treat enjoyed all around the world, but it is also an amazingly versatile substance. It’s found in all sorts of confections such as cake and ice cream, but despite being known as sweet and full of sugar, chocolate’s other properties are what makes it stand out from other ingredients. Chocolate is made from solids and butter from the cacao plant. The plant has a pod that bears 20-30 beans from which chocolate liquor is extracted. A whole two-thirds of cacao production is exported from West Africa.

Cacao flavinols provide the signature bitter taste in chocolate. In a study released by Hypertention, a scientific journal, seniors participated in an experiment where a treatment of cacao flavinols were used. Cacao flavinols found in chocolate have been known to protect antioxidants and relax blood vessels in the body. Seniors who drank higher quantities of the mixture performed better on mental and attention-based aptitude tests. Because it can reduce blood pressure and act like a blood thinner, chocolate has been claimed to be an aphrodisiac along with cinnamon and chili peppers. I think that it would be far-fetched to assume that low blood pressure is associated with aphrodisiacs but it doesn’t make chocolate any less delicious. Cacao flavinols are not abundant in chocolates though. To reach the same level as the high-flavinol mixture the subjects had, at least 300 grams of dark chocolate would need to be consumed every day. The dietary name brand supplement CacaoVia   was put on store shelves shortly after the study was released at over $65 a package. At prices like those I would enjoy far more chocolate that supposedly brain enhancing chemicals.

Chocolate can also be effective towards treating Type 2 diabetes. Aedin Cassidy, a researcher from the University of East Anglia, reported that chocolate, along with various berries and wine, has powerful bioactive compounds that help regulate blood sugar and lower insulin resistance.

Chocolate has also been found with strange physical properties as well. Dr. Christopher R. Daubert and Dr. James Steffe from Michigan State University discovered that Hershey’s chocolate has the properties of a “smart fluid.” By applying an electrical current through “smart fluids,” the substance hardens. These properties are highly sought after in cars and heavy machinery with parts like hydraulics and car shocks. Chocolate seems to borderline the supernatural in taste  and reality.

Eating chocolate has also been associated with dieting, but the connection doesn’t seem to be nearly so absolute. Researchers from the Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence group gathered records from over 1,400 adolescents in nine different countries and analyzed their dieting habits for the previous 24 hours. The records show that the subjects who ate more chocolate had a smaller body mass index (BMI) than those who ate less.

Chocolate’s applications are amazing. Its potential for treating diabetes, fighting fatigue and promoting mental growth is additional motivation. Staying awake and being tasty makes it one of my favorite ingredients for work and cuisine.