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Sweet Relief

Dark Chocolate Helps Relieve Stress Levels

Dark chocolate connoisseurs, rejoice:  It can help relieve emotional distress.

Dark chocolate connoisseurs, rejoice: It can help relieve emotional distress.

Comfort foods are the oases people turn to for stress relief.  This is OK every once in a while, but not regularly, because comfort foods are more often than not nutritional lightweights.  But that generalization doesn’t apply to chocolate, in particular dark chocolate.  Dark chocolate can—in fact, should—be eaten regularly.  Because according to a recent study published in the Journal of Proteome Research, dark chocolate is not only good for you physically but it’s good for you mentally, because it can help relieve high levels of emotional stress.

Researchers followed the effects of “choco-chomping” among participants that ate about 1.2 ounces of dark chocolate per day for two weeks.  The analysis involved the identification of stress hormones in the body and whether these stress hormones increased, decreased, or remained the same over those two weeks.

To the researchers delight, they found that their stress hormones reduced.  The stress hormones cortisol, adrenaline, noradrenaline and normetanephrine all dropped, and this was identified through urine and blood samples that were collected before and after the 14-day study.

This is the first scientific study to link stress reduction to dark chocolate consumption.  Past studies have linked dark chocolate consumption to other positive health effects, like reducing the risk of developing heart disease by improving arterial blood flow.

So, will any old dark chocolate do?  Hardly.  You want to be looking for chocolate varieties that are highest in antioxidants, or the dark chocolates that have a high cacao percentage.  The higher the percentage, the higher the antioxidant content.  Shoot for any bar that has a cacao content higher than 70 percent (bear in mind that the higher the percentage, the more bitter it is in taste).

As far as amounts go, the amount used in this study was 1.2 ounces or 42 grams.  That’s a little bit less than a full-sized Hershey’s candy bar (the average Hershey’s candy bar is 1.55 ounces)!  Not even the researchers suggest eating a full-sized candy bar to alleviate stress levels.  To keep weight levels in check and still improve stress levels, go for about one-sixth of 42 grams, or 6.7 ounces per day.  Simply chop up the full-sized bar into sixths.

Finally, “cocoa” is not the same as “cacao.”  They’re often used interchangeably, but they’re actually quite different.  “Cacao” refers to the entire cacao bean that’s used in the bar’s production.  All the good stuff, in other words.  “Cocoa” refers to the powder only.  The powder is all the good tasting stuff, but it lacks the other elements that make chocolate so good for you.  It’s sort of like the difference between whole grain and whole wheat.

So, if possible, look for bars that have a high cacao content rather than cocoa content.  If you’re unsure of whether the bar was produced with cacao or cocoa (U.S. regulations allow chocolate producers to use either term, which explains why so many people are confused by the terms), get in touch with the manufacturer.  Their contact information should be written on the bar’s package.

Sources:
sciencedaily.com
examiner.com
worldsfinestchocolate.com

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  4. Pedaling Away to Migraine Relief
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