What to do with all the chocolate you got for Christmas? Eat it, of course! Especially if it’s dark chocolate.
For years, chocolate got a bad rap when it came to skin. Chocolate was pegged as the culprit for acne and blemishes. But not all chocolates are the same. It was not the chocolate that was at fault, but the sugar and fat in milk chocolate and chocolate candy bars.
Scientists have been studying the ingredients in chocolate, and they discovered that
cacao, the cocoa bean, contains phyto-nutrients (phyto=plant) called flavonoids that can have beneficial effects on health, both in the lab and when consumed by real people in real life. Studies have shown that research participants who ate a standardized amount of dark chocolate every day for several months had smoother, less dry skin compared to a control group. In addition to being found in the cocoa bean, flavonoids are found in fruit, vegetables, tea, wine, and beer. But dark chocolate is a more flavonoid-rich source, containing about twice the amount of flavonoids in red wine and about three times the amount in green tea.
So, what do flavonoids do to help us stay healthier and look better? Flavonoids act as antioxidants. The antioxidant activity can help in a variety of ways:
• provide protection from UV damage: fewer wrinkles
• provide protection from free-radicals: less sun damage, fewer brown spots
• support blood vessel flexibility: help prevent heart disease by reversing the blood vessel stiffness that comes with age; help increase blood flow that delivers oxygen and important nutrients to skin giving it a healthy glow
• improved moisture and skin density: younger-looking, more supple skin.
So, how do you get in on this? Not all chocolate is created equal in terms of skin benefits. Look for dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao. These days, the percent cacao is usually shown on the front of the package.
And it should have a slightly bitter taste. Flavonoids in chocolate are bitter, and they are sometimes removed during processing to make the chocolate taste more appealing. If your chocolate lacks that “tang”, it may also lack the health benefits.
How much dark chocolate should you eat? Beneficial effects were found from eating just 2-3 ounces of dark chocolate per week, and more (meaning “too much”) is not necessarily better. A one-ounce square as a treat in the afternoon or for dessert every day should do the trick. Enjoy!