Easter can be difficult when you’re trying to stick to a training regime and a healthy diet. Like Christmas, it’s easy to slip up and begin to develop bad habits, and before you know it those gains you’ve worked so hard for may have edged a little further away once again.
But relax: it doesn’t have to be this way, and you don’t need the restraint of a saint to make it through this Easter without indulging a little—thanks to the tasty miracle that is dark chocolate.
Cocoa is the ingredient which gives chocolate its colour—and the more cocoa your chocolate contains, the better. ‘Dark’ chocolate is anything that has over 50% cocoa, however, you really want to be searching for choc containing 70% or more.
Chocolate is often thought of as a vice with no upside beyond its flavor, however, this isn’t the full picture: it also contains minerals and nutrients from the cacao plant, which can provide us with some great health benefits.
The plant contains a ton of iron, copper, zinc, magnesium and antioxidants, all of which help your body perform its daily duties better in myriad ways.
The key is making sure the chocolate you eat has enough of the original plant extract within to provide you with these bonuses.
Keep a healthy heart
Flavonoids are a compound found in chocolate (as well as onions, broccoli, red wine and various fruits) which can help protect you from heart disease and several types of cancer.
Opting for dark chocolate this Easter ensures you’ll get the largest proportion of heart-friendly flavonoids; milk chocolate has far fewer, and white chocolate has none.
Boost your brain
The flavonoids in dark chocolate have been found in several studies to improve brain function in many ways, including: protecting neurons against injury from neurotoxins, suppressing inflammation, and promoting memory, learning and cognitive function.
In addition, flavonoids can increase your attention span and verbal fluency when consumed daily. That’s not to say you can get all your necessary flavonoids from dark chocolate, but it certainly can’t hurt when scoffed in moderation.
Lift your mood
The simple power of chocolate in lifting our mood is known to most of us, however, the science behind it may be unfamiliar.
Dark chocolate is packed with compounds that can chemically boost our mood, reduce depression, and even conjure sensations similar to falling in love (within reason, naturally).
The serotonin released when consuming chocolate, as well as the flavonoids within, stimulates the release of endorphins in our brain—the chemicals responsible for sensations of pleasure.
Max out your energy
Your average piece of chocolate has a high concentration of carbs, calories and glucose. This makes chocolate a dense source of quick-release energy, making it a handy pick-me-up when you’re spending your day doing vigorous activity. This is thought to be because of the role dark chocolate has to play in dilating blood vessels, allowing more blood to pass through quicker.
Top up your testosterone
Testosterone is the hormone responsible for muscle growth, libido and overall energy levels in men of all ages. Low levels can slow down your progress in the gym, make you feel sluggish, or even cause your libido to deflate.
Also Read: 5 Testosterone Killing Foods To Avoid
Thankfully, your testosterone levels can be naturally boosted by dark chocolate in several ways:
Magnesium and zinc
Both elements play a crucial role in the production of testosterone, and you’ll find them in abundance in any dark chocolate you munch this Easter.
In addition, zinc keeps your immune system strong and accelerates wound healing, while magnesium helps regulate your nervous system and converts amino acids into proteins.
Antioxidants for your testes
Testosterone is produced in a microscopic factory within your testes. When oxidation occurs in the testes, however, this slows the production of the male hormone, right across the board.
Eating dark chocolate can prevent this thanks again to flavonoids, which work to reduce oxidation. This enables your testes to get back to work creating the testosterone you need to look and feel your best.
When we feel anxious or stressed, our body releases a cocktail of different stress hormones to help us deal with whatever threat or challenge our bodies anticipate.
Of course, in the modern world there rarely is a threat, and more often than not we find ourselves stressed up to our eyeballs for no reason at all, with all the negative effects that brings: reduced testosterone, sleepless nights, digestive problems, to name but a few.
Dark chocolate has been found to reduce the levels of cortisol in the body, thereby lowering our stress levels and allowing for testosterone levels to rise once again.
The bigger picture
Now, it’s important to note that eating piles of dark chocolate alone won’t get you the health results you want! While it’s true that dark chocolate can provide your body with some really beneficial nutrients, it’s important to ensure that you’re consuming small amounts, as part of a healthy and balanced diet.
If you ensure the dark chocolate you eat this Easter is over 70% cocoa, however, you can’t go far wrong, and you don’t have to feel guilty about messing up your diet.
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