Health Tips

This Valentine’s Day, Say Yes To Dark Chocolate

There’s no better time to indulge in some chocolate than on Valentine’s Day. And while chocolate can be high in fat and sugar, it’s not all bad. In fact, there is evidence to support that dark chocolate — with a cocoa level of 70 percent or higher — can actually help your health. We’re not talking about milk chocolate and caramel candy bars here. But moderate amounts of dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa can provide these health benefits:

1. Antioxidants

Dark chocolate is filled with antioxidants – compounds that protect our cells from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can cause vision loss over time, as well as contribute to the development of diseases like diabetes and heart disease. That’s why you may have heard the saying, “Dark chocolate is good for the heart.”

2. Nutrients

Along with antioxidants and other helpful compounds, dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa is high in fiber and protein and also contributes to your recommended daily allowances of iron, magnesium, copper, potassium and zinc.

3. Brain health

Studies show that flavanols, a group of compounds found in raw cocoa beans, can help improve brain function and enhance neuroplasticity – the ability for the brain to change and adapt over your lifetime. This can help prevent neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Flavanols are also believed to have the ability to lower blood pressure.

4. Happiness

All other health benefits aside, it’s hard to deny that chocolate make us happy. And that’s not just because of chocolate’s yummy taste. Dark chocolate contains phenylethylamine and other psychoactive ingredients that improve mood. Evidence shows that people who consume small amounts of chocolate regularly are happier.

But as with anything, moderation is key.  Consuming large amounts of any chocolate can cause weight gain, tooth decay, headaches and other health issues linked to consuming high levels of fat and sugar. So, while it’s perfectly OK to indulge in some dark chocolate this Valentine’s Day, it should be seen as a treat and not a large part of your daily diet.

Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus and in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Schedule an appointment here.

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