Do you or someone you know experience constant chronic pain? If your answer is "yes", your best bet to help yourself (and them!) is to have a piece of dark chocolate.
Yes, really! Chocolate helps reduce pain and improve overall health. In fact, the health benefits of dark chocolate are so extensive that it is considered by many to be a superfood.
The benefits of chocolate come from the cacao bean. The higher the concentration of cacao in your chocolate, the more health benefits you get.
While there are many different types of chocolate, dark chocolate with a cacao content of 65 percent or more is best for reducing chronic pain.
Dark chocolate is superior to milk chocolate because it has more healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, fewer carbohydrates, less sugar, more fiber, higher levels of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.
Dark chocolate also has more flavonoids, which are nutrients found in plants that reduce inflammation and boost immunity.
Here are 4 unexpected health benefits of dark chocolate — aka healthy reasons to eat more of it!
1. Your hormones increase
Chocolate increases the production of endorphins, the body’s natural opiates. As a result, it decreases pain and lifts your mood.
It’s also the only known food source of ananamide, a natural cannabinoid that attaches to the body’s cannabis receptors, just like marijuana. This is another source of chocolate’s pain-relieving effects.
Chocolate also boosts the release of the body's natural amphetamines, phenylethylamine, which increases energy.
Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that acts as an antidepressant, is also boosed by eating chocolate. This may be why so many people reach for chocolate when they need a mood boost.
The heart benefits of chocolate are considerable. It helps restore the flexibility of the arteries as well as preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels.
Eating chocolate has also been shown to reduce levels of 'bad' cholestrol and raise levels of "good" cholesterol (HDL).
As a result, it reduces atherosclerosis, a disease of plaque buildup inside arteries. Probably because of these effects, daily chocolate consumption has been linked to a lower risk of stroke.
3. Your brain also benefits
Chocolate is also good for the brain. A study at Harvard Medical School found that two cups of hot chocolate a day helped improve blood flow to essential parts of the brain.
4. It has benefits during pregnancy
If someone you love is expecting, there are health benefits to eating chocolate for both mom and baby.
A Finnish study found that pregnant women who ate chocolate had less stress and their babies smiled more than the babies of moms who didn’t eat chocolate.
So, with all these dark chocolate health benefits, what’s not to like?
Well, chocolate does have a lot of calories, about 150 per ounce, so moderation is key. The trick is to substitute it for less healthy treats.