Health Benefits of Chocolate for Seniors
When most people think about eating nutritious foods and maintaining a healthy diet, chocolate is not typically one of the first things that comes to mind. However, studies show that chocolate can offer a variety of surprising health benefits. Now before we get too carried away, this is by no means an endorsement to engage in an all-chocolate diet. But eating chocolate in moderation can have positive effects on health.
Does all chocolate offer health benefits?
Not all chocolate provides health benefits to the consumer, in fact most chocolate does not. Highly processed chocolate, which makes up a very high percentage of all chocolate available on the market, has the opposite effect. Processed chocolate high in artificial sugars and lactose ingredients generally contribute to unhealthy blood sugar levels and potentially type 2 diabetes.
Choose Dark Chocolate
If you have been looking for a good excuse to eat chocolate, look no further. It turns out that dark chocolate offers a host of positive health benefits that can be great for seniors and their overall health.
For chocolate to be considered healthy, it must contain 60% cacao at the very least. Some experts recommend choosing dark chocolate made with 70-85% cacao to experience optimal health benefits.
Dark chocolate with a high percentage of cacao is rich in health-boosting compounds called polyphenols. Polyphenols deliver antioxidant properties to help reduce chronic inflammation, cell damage, and the risk of other health conditions. Polyphenols can also be found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, tea, and red wine.
Aside from providing excellent antioxidant power, dark chocolate also contains an abundance of minerals, including:
Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
Antioxidant-rich dark chocolate in its purest and healthiest forms can offer a range of positive health benefits.
- Promotion of Heart Health: Reduced blood pressure, clot and stroke reduction, improved circulation, lower risk of cardiometabolic disorders. Studies show dark chocolate eaten in moderation can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by one-third.
- Potential Cancer Fighting Abilities: Flavonoids are a class of polyphenols found in dark chocolate. Flavonoids are also powerful antioxidants that can help regulate cell activity to fight off toxins and carcinogens.
- Good for Cholesterol Levels: Cocoa Butter contains healthy monounsaturated fats which can have a positive affect on cholesterol. There are two types of cholesterol found in the body: HDL and LDL. Dark chocolate can help boost “good” HDL cholesterol levels while reducing “bad” LDL cholesterol. Reduced LDL plaque buildup in blood vessels and arteries contributes to better cardiovascular health.
- Improved Cognitive Function: Flavonoids are also known for their ability to boost brain health. Neuroprotective properties can help to preserve memory function and curtail symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Better blood flow also means more blood to the brain to deliver essential nutrients and oxygen.
- Blood Sugar Balance: Polyphenols can also be effective in improving insulin sensitivity to naturally balance blood glucose levels. This helps reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Skin Health: Antioxidant properties and increased blood flow can also have positive health benefits for the skin. Compounds found in dark chocolate serve to increase skin density and hydration offering greater protection against harmful UV rays, sunburns, and skin cancer.
- Mood Booster: The mood boosting effects of dark chocolate run deeper than general idea that eating chocolate equals happiness. Dark chocolate contains serotonin, a feel-good chemical produced naturally in the body to elevate mood and feelings of satisfaction. It also triggers the release of endorphins which are the body’s natural pain killer. On top of that, dark chocolate also contains tryptophan, the amino acid in turkey that produces that happy, cozy feeling.
On top of these impressive health benefits, chocolate tastes great! Seniors can feel good about an indulgence that is also advantageous to their bodies and minds.
Moderation is Key
As is the case with many of life’s great joys and pleasures, moderation is paramount in achieving the intended benefits and avoiding negative repercussions. Even with all of the wonderful health benefits that chocolate can offer seniors, eating it in excess comes with significant consequences. Chocolate can be high in sugar, calories, and caffeine, so while seniors should allow themselves to enjoy some chocolate, they should also use some discretion and try not to go overboard.
The problem with chocolate is that many of the processed treats and chocolatey junk foods are full of additives, sugars, dairy, and various other ingredients that counteract the healthy aspects that chocolate can have for the body. Choosing to eat chocolate products that are pure with healthy ingredients can help seniors find a balance between enjoying some chocolatey goodness while also benefitting overall health.