Chocolate - the good news you've been waiting for

Dale Pinnock, The Medicinal Chef

28th February 2017

Chocolate has always been one of those rather naughty indulgences that we often refer to as a guilty pleasure. Fortunately times have changed, and now new research reports that chocolate may actually be good for us. Whoever thought we would see the day where chocolate would actually be seen as good for us. Well my friends, that day is here! Although one little note, what you read below relates to cacao itself, so make sure you get the highest percentage of dark chocolate that you can find to achieve these benefits.

Good for the heart

Not just from an emotional point of view, we now know that cacao is very rich in a group of compounds called flavonoids. These chemicals are taken up by the endothelial cells - the cells that make up the skin that lines the inside of our blood vessels. When the endothelial cells take up flavonoids, the cells are stimulated to secrete a substance called Nitric Oxide. This then relaxes the muscular walls of our blood vessels, causing them to widen. This widening is thought to lower blood pressure. Nitric Oxide also helps to protect the endothelium (inner skin) from damage. It is this type of damage that is the beginning of plaque formation within blood vessels.

Rich source of magnesium

The mineral magnesium is involved in over 1000 enzymatic reactions in the body, yet is also one of the most deficient as the richest sources of it tends to be green vegetables - right at the top of the popularity stakes in this country!!! Cacao is a wonderful source of this vital mineral. Beneficial for heart health, mental health, a healthy musculoskeletal system to name but a few of the vital areas where magnesium benefits our health.

Mood food

This is where there will be no big surprise. Chocolate may have a positive influence on our mood (that definitely explains a lot). Cacao contains a chemical called Phenyl Ethyl Amine (PEA for short). This is the substance that gives us the high we feel when we fall in love, and from physical exertion - runners high. It gives us an energy boost, enhances clarity, and raises adrenaline. Cacao also contains a fat derived substance called anandamide aka The Bliss Chemical.

So, as it turns out, a bit of chocolate may well actually do you some good! Just make sure it is a high percentage dark chocolate.