The cocoa plant grows abundantly in Panama where the Kuna Indians live. Drinking about 40 cups of cocoa a week has been a part of the Kuna Indian tradition and lifestyle for hundreds of years. When a team from Harvard Medical School visited the Kuna people they were surprised to see that less than 10% of the population suffers from heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer or diabetes. The Kuna people were also recorded to have longer life spans than their Panamanian counterparts. This was not a hereditary immunity as Kuna Indians who migrated to other parts of the world and adopted a more “western” diet were not immune to heart disease. What is it that keeps the Kuna Indians so healthy? Dr. Hollenberg, who led the study, proposed that a diet that includes plenty of pure cocoa could be the reason behind this unusual protective immunity!
Dark chocolate formed of cocoa, a wonderfully rich and delectable temptation. Hard to resist, but you don't have to if you choose the right chocolate and use moderate proportions. According to Lake Champlain Chocolates, people are now truly appreciating the quality, richness in flavor, and health benefits of dark chocolate. At this point they actually sell more dark than milk chocolates.
Dark chocolate's known health benefits, according to Lake Champlain Chocolates, are briefly described here:
Cocoa beans are rich in flavonoids, which are antioxidants that keep cholesterol from gathering in blood vessels, reduce the risk of blood clots, and slow down the immune responses that lead to clogged arteries. There are traces of essential elements and nutrients such as iron, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as the vitamins A, B1, C, D, and E. Dark chocolate is the highest natural source of magnesium, which protects against hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. Studies suggest that dark chocolate may have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels - it won't raise bad cholesterol (LDL), and may even raise good cholesterol (HDL) levels. It also contains phenyl ethylamine (PEA), a mild mood elevator. Our brains naturally produce PEA when we feel joy or love. Chocolate boosts serotonin - our brain's antidepressant - as well as endorphin levels. Endorphins naturally flood the brain during physical exertion, creating "runners high."
- 1 Antioxidant Power
- 2 Production of Immune Cells
- 3 Protection from Virus, Bacteria and Fungus
- 4 Lowers Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
- 5 Chocolate and Women's Health
Antioxidant Power—Supporting the Body’s Ability to Neutralize Free Radicals
Cocoa contains flavonoids and is rich in antioxidants called procyanidins and epicatechin. These flavonoids are also found in Green Tea, particularly the powerful antioxidant known as epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), Resveratrol is another powerful antioxidant produced naturally by red grapes in response to fungal infection.
Antioxidants work on the cellular level and are believed to counteract the damaging effects of free radical activity. Free radical activity destabilizes molecular activity leading to cell disruption, cell mutation and is the main reason for tissue and organ damage, even disease. Antioxidants help to support immune health at the most basic cellular level.
In today’s world, stress, pollution, processed food or convenient take-aways, a diet rich in carbohydrates, sugars, saturated fats, even a sedentary lifestyle can create an overload of free radical activity in the body. The body’s immune system finds it difficult to keep up with combating this overload, and as a result the immune system becomes weak. We find ourselves feeling fatigued and susceptible to diverse illnesses. A diet rich in antioxidants can help the body to neutralize free radical activity.
Numerous studies show that resveratrol and antioxidants in cocoa and green tea can help the body to support the immune system in various ways.This makes Chocolate Tea a great beverage for supporting immune health!
Production of Immune Cells
Helping to Stimulate the Production of Immune Cells
Studies show that there may be a strong connection between cocoa intake and the production of thymocytes. Thymocytes are white blood cells that are produced in the thymus and are a precursor for T cells. T cells are vital to our body’s immune functions, and are beneficial in reducing the risk of disease.3
Green tea contains a high amount of an amino acid called L-theanine. L-theanine is known to enhance the body’s immunity. In a Harvard study, people who drank 5 cups of green tea per day had 5 times more virus-fighting interferon in their blood than others who did not drink Green Tea.
Tea polysaccharides (TPS), one of the main components in green tea, stimulate the production of cytokines in the bone marrow. Cytokines are used in cellular communication and are critical to the body’s immune response to pathogens.
Protection from Virus, Bacteria and Fungus
Helps the Body’s Ability to Protect Itself from Virus, Bacteria and Fungus
Resveratrol and EGCG inhibit the replication of the influenza virus. They also exhibit anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties. Clinical trials on resveratrol indicate it plays an inhibiting role on the herpes simplex virus, influenza A virus, dermatophytes and bacterial pathogens of the skin and all kinds of fungal infections. Green Tea has been studied for its inhibitive action on adenovirus, virus responsible for common colds.
Lowers Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Helping to Reduce Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Antioxidants in Green Tea and Chocolate and resveratrol have been individually studied for their role in supporting cardiovascular health. All of them indicate they support heart health by:
- Helping to improve blood circulation by stimulating the production of nitric oxide. This relaxes blood vessels and helps to increase vasodilation.
- Helping to control blood pressure.
- Helping to prevent blood clots.
- Helping to regulate good cholesterol levels and helping to reduce plaque formation in the arteries.
- Coco product combines the antioxidant power of pure cocoa, green tea and resveratrol to support immune health. It contains an ORAC value of 5,250 per 7.4 grams.
If you happen to be a "chocoholic," there is some good news for you: some chocolate is not only not as unhealthy as previously thought, but many doctors now actually encourage the public to consume it. One particular type of chocolate can be beneficial to your gums, eyes, heart, arteries and even your entire immune system. It can also help lower cholesterol levels and balance both blood pressure and blood sugar. However, before you run out to buy candy bars in bulk, know that not just any kind of chocolate will provide such benefits.
Dark chocolate, created from natural cocoa beans, has been recommended for consumption even up to three times a day. This is because the cocoa bean is the food with the highest levels of antioxidants ever, which protect the body from oxidative stress involved with aging. Other foods, such as red wine, tea, and select few fruits and vegetables also offer similar health benefits, but cocoa still tops them all when it comes to the sheer number of antioxidants. These antioxidant compounds are called flavanols, which presumably supply dark chocolate its health benefits.
Ironically, flavanols actually taste very bitter, so many companies that make candy bars take out most of the flavanols to make the chocolate taste better. This obviously strips the chocolate of most of its health benefits. Furthermore, there is no way of knowing which candy bar is healthiest, as companies do not indicate how many flavanols are left in the final product. This is why buying dark chocolate candy bars simply to get the health effects may not work.
Also keep in mind that milk chocolate does not render the same health perks. The darker the chocolate, the more flavonoids containing flavanols there are, meaning that milk chocolate offers fewer health benefits than dark chocolate. Clearly this indicates that white chocolate offers even fewer; in fact, it contains no flavonoids.
The best way to take advantage of the health benefits offered in dark chocolate is to buy the darkest chocolate available with the least amount of added ingredients, perhaps from a health food store. Another option is to buy one of the recent products in which dark chocolate is infused with the açaí berry, an antioxidant that helps reduce heart and vascular disease. Dark chocolate and açaí go together well because both have a magnitude of antioxidants, and açaí helps flavanol-filled dark chocolate taste good.
But even if you find such a product, realize that it is not a wonder drug. Despite its health benefits, dark chocolate still contains calories and some fat, and an excess of either is unhealthy. Even too many dark chocolate and açaí products can be harmful. This is why doctors recommend some dark chocolate, red wine, or other treats that have some health benefits daily, but do advise patients to limit their intake, as too much of anything can be detrimental.
Chocolate and Women's Health
Chocolate could have an influence on women herpes symptoms. Several articles published recently claim that chocolate is a health food superior even to green tea. A study in 2003 suggested that eating chocolate regularly could prolong your life span, and other studies suggest that it protects blood vessels. Chocolate may be an antioxidant and contain lots of polyphenols, but for people with herpes, chocolate is often a trigger.
Polyphenols and minerals
Most studies on chocolate conclude that it is best to eat highly concentrated dark chocolate because it contains more antioxidant, polyphenols and minerals than other varieties and also because it usually contains less added sugar and fat.
Chocolate also contains ingredients which can suppress your immune system, such as metylxantil and small amounts of caffeine and refined sugar.
Herpes... avoid it
Its high arginine content gives fuel to herpes reproduction. So chocolate should be avoided by both men and women infected with herpes.
No in PMS
Menopausal women or those suffering from PMS should be extra careful about their chocolate intake. Chocolate can stimulate the production of certain prostaglandins, which are thought to promote PMS. Women with PMS are often advised to avoid beverages or foods (tea, coffee and chocolate) containing Xantine or melxantil in order to reduce nervousness, breast tenderness and irritability.
Other small studies indicate that a certain type of prostaglandin (E2) exacerbates herpes virus proliferation while another (E1), suppresses it.
In other words, the action of chocolate on prostaglandin (E2) could promote herpes replication and especially in women during PMS and menopause. Body levels of prostaglandin (E1) decrease during PMS and menopause while other types of prostaglandins naturally increase.
This could mean that women who display high prostaglandin levels naturally experience more severe herpes symptoms and that eating chocolate could make things worse for them.
Prevention of human cytomegalovirus (CMV) virus
A 2002 laboratory study conducted in New Jersey suggested that prostaglandins inhibitors such as aspirin could prevent reproduction of the human cytomegalovirus (CMV) virus and that may also be the case with the herpes virus.