Sinful indulgence or a gift from the gods? If you’re one of those, who cannot say ‘no’ to chocolate, and let’s face it, most of us fall into this group, then read on to find out about the health benefits behind chocolate and how to relish a guilt-free bite!

Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés, who first introduced chocolate in the 16th century to Europe, had this to say:

…the divine drink which builds up resistance and fights fatigue. A cup of this precious drink permits a man to walk for a whole day without food.

Chocolate as we know it, combined with milk, sugar and cocoa, is a delight that’s conquered the world’s palate. Increasingly, modern science is unravelling a host of health benefits associated with this delectable treat:

Chocolate is a high-carbohydrate, high-fat food and hence a good source of energy.

Chocolate contains iron, magnesium and niacin. While iron helps channel oxygen to all parts of the body, both magnesium and niacin facilitate the body in harnessing energy from various foods.

The warm glow that spreads within us when savouring chocolate comes from two endorphins or mood enhancers present in it, serotonin and phenylethylamine.

Chocolate health benefits also include trace quantities of several vitamins like A, E, B1, B2 and folate, the body’s requirement of these is common knowledge.

Does chocolate cause overstimulation of the nervous system? Theobromine and caffeine are chemicals in chocolate that both stimulate and energize. However, these are present only in small quantities and get further diluted when cacoa beans are processed into milk chocolate. Dark chocolate contains larger quantities of theobromine, one reason why it’s typically consumed in tiny portions.  

Like many other goodies, chocolate gets bad press, excess weight, tooth cavities, high cholesterol, acne and headaches are just some accusations hurled at chocolate. However, not all these claims are entirely true.

Milk chocolates are especially loaded with calories, but only overindulgence would cause weight gain.
Research from Mayo Clinic proved that stearic acid, a neutral fat present in chocolate, does not hike LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol. Also, oleic acid present in cocoa butter is similar to the monounsaturated fat found in olive oil and could actually improve levels of HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol!  

As for cavities, it’s the sugar in chocolate that’s the villain leading to dental problems. One University of Pittsburgh study found little connection between chocolates and headache; it’s possible however, that migraine sufferers are a vulnerable group. Elsewhere, research has failed to find any connection between acne and chocolate. Alas, neither has science established that chocolate is a proven aphrodisiac!

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