Auvia O’Neal, a registered dietician with Mercy Hospital Springfield, dishes up some sweet health benefits to dark chocolate.
417 Magazine: First things first. Is chocolate actually good for you?
Auvia O’Neal: Chocolate does all kinds of things, but the health effects only work with dark chocolate that is 60 percent cocoa or above.
417: So we can eat dark chocolate every day guilt-free?
A.O.: We’re talking about ¼ of an ounce, so not a huge amount.
417: What are some of the main health benefits?
A.O.: One thing it does is help lower blood pressure, and it has been found to decrease bad cholesterol that gets wedged in your arteries. It can also improve blood flow to the brain, which can help people think better and improve the cognitive function in the elderly.
417: Is there any truth to chocolate making people happier?
A.O.: Actually, yes. Chocolate makes you feel good because it increases serotonin in your brain, which makes you feel happy and calm. It also releases phenylethylamine, which mimics the feeling of love to make you more alert and excited. That’s why chocolate is dubbed the love food.
417: Why is it that dark cocoa has such health benefits?
A.O.: Raw cocoa beans are one of the highest antioxidant-rich foods out there. What happens is you can get damaged cells, and antioxidants help fight inflammation and repair those damaged cells.