Health, beauty and food are all three important factors in life. These three factors are directly connected to each other in several ways. It would be easiest to think of these three aspects of life as three sides of a triangle. Much like the college life triangle—social life, good grades and sleep—but you only get to pick two out of the three sides most of the time. Fortunately, there is a delicious food out there that lets you have all sides of the pyramid we struggle to improve so often. The answer to this triangle of perfection is dark chocolate. Not only is it delicious, dark chocolate also has natural plant substances called flavanols that provide numerous health and beauty benefits.
But, there is a catch. The only chocolate that can deliver the health and beauty benefits is chocolate that has at least 70 percent cocoa. Unfortunately, this does not include the chocolate found in the candy store. Those chocolates are packed full of fats and sugars.
The health benefits in dark chocolate come from natural plant substances found in cocoa called flavanols. They relax the blood vessels, which reduces blood pressure. They also keep platelets from getting sticky, which reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston is currently conducting a study to assess the health benefits of flavanols found in cocoa as it relates to heart attack and stroke prevention. Brigham and Women’s Hospital created a pill that extracts the cocoa flavanols and is examining the benefits in its 18,000 male and female volunteers. Flavanols in this pill have 10 times the amount that people would normally eat. Mars, Inc., the maker of M&Ms and Snickers, patented a way to extract the flavanols from cocoa and is co-sponsoring this study.
Flavanols also help improve the look and health of the skin. It reduces stress hormones, which means fewer wrinkles, lines and breakouts. Cocoa flavanols are also antioxidants that help protect the skin from ultraviolet damage from the sun, fight free radicals and increase blood flow. This means even fewer wrinkles, fewer sunspots and a healthy skin glow. Another benefit from the flavanols in dark chocolate is improved hydration and thickness, which promotes healthy and younger-looking skin.
So how can one reap these delicious health and beauty benefits if one is not on the M&Ms pill? Well, finding dark chocolate that has at least 70 percent cocoa is a good start. Most chocolate bars will have that information on the front of the label if it is made with at least 70 percent cocoa. If this is not on the label, check the back label. If the first ingredient is milk or sugar, it most likely does not have the amount of cocoa needed to reap the health and beauty benefits.
Next, it is important to eat chocolate in portions. Two to three ounces a week is all that is needed to reap benefits from the flavanols. But having it once a day as a snack or for dessert is OK, too. Who would have thought there would come a day when one’s body could thank the sweet tooth? Make sure to thank the cocoa flavanols found in dark chocolate, too, for improved health and glowing skin.
Opinion by Haydenn Harper