Few people would object to adding a little more chocolate to their diet. Dark chocolate, in particular, has been shown to improve cognitive function, slow memory loss, and even help prevent cancer. Now, according to a new report published in the British Journal of Nutrition, it may be especially healthy to indulge in every single day.
- Chocolate and Insulin Resistance
Researchers from the University of Warwick analyzed data from 1,153 people, aged 18 to 69, enrolled in the Observation of Cardiovascular Risk in Luxembourg study, the first nationwide survey on heart disease risk factors. They found that people who ate 100 grams of chocolate a day, which is the equivalent of about one bar, had lower insulin resistance and improved liver enzymes than participants who did not.
In addition, over 80 percent of the study participants who reported eating an average of 24.8 grams of chocolate a day were younger, more physically active, and more educated than those who said they did not consume the treat every day.
“Given the growing body of evidence, including our own study, cocoa-based products may represent an additional dietary recommendation to improve cardio-metabolic health,” said lead study author Saverio Stranges, a visiting academic at the Warwick Medical School, in a press release.
Stranges explained that the findings could inspire health care experts to encourage people to consume foods rich in polyphenols, the metabolite that boasts chocolate’s health profile. It’s considered an antioxidant and, by some, a way to protect against both degenerative diseases and cardiovascular diseases. In addition to chocolate, polyphenols are present in coffee, tea, flaxseeds, cloves, chestnuts, and more.
- Choosing the Right Chocolate
If a person, however, chooses chocolate as their primary source of antioxidants, the researchers said it’s important to differentiate between natural cocoa and the more processed forms of chocolate; dark chocolate has half the sugar and four times the fiber than milk chocolate, Prevention reported. What’s more, people must monitor their physical activity and diet to balance chocolate consumption in order to avoid weight gain over time.
“It is also possible that chocolate consumption may represent an overall marker for a cluster of favorable socio-demographic profiles, healthier lifestyle behaviors, and better health status,” said principal investigator Ala’a Alkerwi. “This could explain, at least in part, the observed inverse associations with insulin and liver biomarkers.”
More than 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year, making it the leading cause of death. Insulin resistance, which can be reduced by chocolate, is a major underlying cause of heart disease that is often overlooked because of other contributing factors like obesity.
The researchers wrote that it’s important to conduct further studies on the effects of chocolate on both insulin resistance and liver enzymes, so the sweet treat’s beneficial effects can be confirmed.
- Homemade Chocolate Bar
-Serves: 1 or 20, depending on the extent of your chocolate craving
1 cup raw cacao
1/4 cup 100% pure maple syrup
1/2 cup organic, cold-pressed coconut oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. sea salt
A handful of almonds, chopped into slivers (optional)
– Melt the coconut oil (gently) in a saucepan until it’s liquid
– Mix together all the ingredients (aside from the almonds) until well combined
– Lay out a cookie sheet with parchment paper on it
– Pour mixture onto parchment paper, making a rectangle (around the size of an A4 sheet of paper)
– Sprinkle the almond slivers on top
– Allow it to freeze
Note: this is a dark chocolate bar, it will not resemble the taste of milk chocolate! If you find this too bitter, simply add more maple syrup or raw honey to the mixture.