Okay, it’s October, I’ve held off long enough. For the past several months, the stores have had Halloween costumes and candy ready for the picking (right next to the last of the Back-To-School inventory that was on display since last June). This has been despite the fact that we were still hitting 80 degrees outside- and it was still September. But it’s now October, and officially Fall, so I guess that Halloween can now be considered. It has been long since I’ve dressed up for Halloween but it has not been long since I’ve partaken in the annual Halloween candy engorgement. Nothing is better than the wide assortment of tiny candies- most of which contain chocolate. So thus, I present my Halloween Chocolate Post. For anyone looking for a valid excuse to eat chocolate (and not only during this candy season), you will hopefully find one (if not several) here.

Reason 7: Better Arterial Flow for Smokers

Clogged arteryA study from 2006 shows that eating some dark chocolate each day may starve off artery hardening in smokers. In people who smoke, the cells lining the arteries are constantly disrupted, which can lead them to harden and narrow, causing a severe health problem. Smokers in the study were asked to eat about 2oz of dark chocolate, and were then underwent ultrasound scans which showed that the chocolate improved arterial flow. Blood flow was much smoother than without the chocolate. This effect lasted up to about 8 hours. White chocolate was also used in the study but did not show the same effect.

Reason 6: Kill Those Cravings!

pizzaIn 2008, research at the University of Copenhagen discovered that dark chocolate is more filling than milk chocolate and may lessen cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods. The study found that individuals who consumed dark chocolate were satiated for longer than those who had the equivalent amount of milk chocolate. Several hours after eating the chocolate, participants were offered pizza. Those that had the dark chocolate consumed less of the pizza. Those individuals also found themselves lacking the craving for sweet, salty or fatty foods. For those who tend to eat such foods (especially during the holidays), they may be able to use dark chocolate to help them steer clear of the foods and may help to regulate and keep off extra added weight.

Reason 5: Reduce Brain Damage during a Stroke

Dark chocolate may guard against brain injury during a stroke. A few months ago, researchers at Johns Hopkins showed that a chemical in dark chocolate, called epicatechin (a flavanol) stimulated shield nerve cells. Mice that were given epicatechin suffered a significant decrease in brain damage than the ones that were not given the chemical. The presence of the chemical can also decrease brain damage up to 3.5 hours after a stroke.

Reason 4: Boost Brain Power, Just Add Chocolate

brainIn 2007, scientists at the University of Nottingham used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to show that individuals who consumed a drink of flavanol-rich cocoa had increased levels of oxygen in the brain for up to three hours. Oxygen was able to reach key regions in the brain. This increased oxygen may help increase performance in tasks or just boost general awareness during that time. Flavanol is found in chocolate with high cocoa contents but unfortunately is not usually commercially available in the concentrations used for this particular study.

Reason 3: Powerful Antioxidants; Part 1

Our DNA is constantly under fire from unstable, very reactive chemicals called free radials. These free radicals are unpaired electrons that are the result of normal biological processes, but they can cause DNA damage. Individuals can consume antioxidants, which decrease the amount of these free radicals. One source of antioxidants is chocolate. Left unchecked, these free radicals can cause cancer by damaging cells and DNA. Taking in antioxidants (like chocolate) could help prevent cancer and cellular damage. Have you ever heard that tea has the most amount of antioxidants? New research indicates that dark chocolate has four times as much antioxidants compared to tea. Milk chocolate only has a few mg more than tea. Other than chocolate, other sources of antioxidants are the vitamins found in fruits and vegetables.

Reason 2: Powerful Antioxidants; Part 2

Those antioxidants may also help to prevent heart disease. One antioxidant that chocolate contains is called phenol. Phenols are said to prevent fats in the blood from oxidizing and clogging the arteries. They also help prevent platelets from sticking and causing clots. Atherosclerosis (plaque in the arteries) is caused by the oxidation of cholesterol particles. This can lead to advanced plaque and eventually the clogging of the arteries and a heart attack. By decreasing the formation of the plagues, it can help delay future heart problems.

Reason 1: General Well-Being

chocolateAnd finally for the number one reason chocolate is amazing. Chocolate makes people happy. Chocolate contains over 300 chemicals that have effects on the body’s immune system. Chocolate increases the levels of endorphins which work to decrease pain and stress. Chocolate also increases the level of serotonin in the brain, which is an anti-depressant. There is also anadamide, which activate the dopamine receptor, leading to feelings of well-being. There you have it, chocolate makes people happy!

There are numerous science papers that hint of benefits of chocolate, but, of course, with the good also come the bad. Chocolate can have a lot of calories and should always be had in moderation. However, for the Halloween season, indulge a bit and enjoy! Happy Halloween.