Dr Sally Norton, of Vavista.com, has shared her top ten reasons why eating chocolate is a good idea.
Firstly, studies have shown cocoa may help prevent memory loss.
Dr Sally said: “Scientists at Harvard Medical School suggest that drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day may keep the brain healthy and prevent memory decline in older people by preserving blood flow in working areas of the brain.
“The team tested the memory and thinking skills of 60 older people before and after a 30-day period drinking two cups of cocoa per day.
Cocoa also reduces blood pressure – numerous trials have shown that even small amounts of chocolate will reduce blood pressure.
Foods containing high levels of cocoa flavanols have been shown to increase blood flow to the brain, which may improve performance in mentally demanding tasks.
Dr Sally said: “In a study of 30 adults, it was shown they performed better in maths tasks, and felt more alert, on the days when they were given drinks containing high levels of cocoa flavanols than on days when they weren’t.”
Chronic fatigue syndrome may also be helped by eating cocoa.
Dr Sally said: “Scientists from Hull York Medical School showed that people with chronic fatigue syndrome had improvement in their symptoms when eating dark chocolate as opposed to milk chocolate with added brown dye.
“They postulated that this was due to boosting levels of serotonin, a brain chemical, via the polyphenols found in dark chocolate.
“And for added reassurance, none of the trial participants put on any weight during the study – so, if you have chronic fatigue syndrome you have a good excuse to eat a small quantity of high cocoa content dark chocolate each day.”
Cocoa has been tested to see its benefits on more serious health issues too.
Animals studies have found rats fed a cocoa-rich diet were less susceptible to pre-cancerous changes in the bowel and showed less evidence of cell damage.
Diabetes sufferers could also benefit from eating cocoa – one hundred people with type 2 diabetes were given either cocoa and milk, or milk alone twice a day for 6 weeks.
Those who had cocoa showed a reduction in cholesterol and inflammation levels.
An animal study demonstrated that daily cocoa may reduce fatty liver disease associated with a high fat diet.
Dr Sally said: “Fatty liver disease is increasing due to the obesity crisis and can, in some cases, progress to cirrhosis.
“So, whilst you are working on reducing your weight, a cup of cocoa rather than a gin and tonic before bed may be a better choice as far as your liver is concerned.”
Cardiovascular health could also be improved by eating cocoa – a review of 42 trials looking at over 1200 patients also showed a drop in insulin levels, and ‘bad’ cholesterol levels by having the flavanols found in cocoa.
Both of these benefits will reduce the risks of heart and blood vessel diseases such as heart attacks and strokes.
If you are craving chocolate, you can blame stress – however there is some evidence that this craving may be founded, and that eating an ounce and a half of dark chocolate per day can reduce stress hormones and anxiety.
Finally, cocoa may actually help weight control – Dr Sally said: “Mice fed a diet high in cocoa had a lower body weight than those fed a cocoa substitute.”