Get ready: there’s a new holiday to celebrate! July 4th may have its parades and fireworks, but July 7th is National Chocolate Day and it’s a great excuse to indulge while not reversing all that hard work it took to look great in your swimsuit!
This guilt-free pleasure loaded with flavonoids and anti-oxidants packs such a powerful healthy wallop, so scientists around the world conduct research to discover what it is about the humble cacao bean that is so good for us! For menopausal women who search for ways to feel better, the good news couldn’t come a moment too soon.
Columbus Discovered America, but Who Found Out About Chocolate?
Chocolate has close ties to America’s beginnings. It was Christopher Columbus who when offered a sip of chocolate drink or ‘xocoatl’ by the Aztecs, declared he didn’t like the taste. Really Chris?
Spanish conquistador Don Hernan Cortes had quite the different reaction—thank you Don! He not only loved the taste, but also understood the commercial value and stashed a plantation’s worth of cacao beans on board his ship for transport back to the Old World. Those precious beans were then hidden in Spanish monasteries and served to only the very rich. It wasn’t long until chocolate was served in the top salons of Europe, gradually finding its way back to America.
Mass Consumption Leads to Medical Research
The popularity of chocolate has prompted hundreds of medical studies to examine the effects on the human body. The results are in…and the news is good! Dark chocolate, containing at least 70% cacao, possesses seemingly magical powers in opening arteries, minimizing insulin resistance and reducing morbidity. And that’s just for starters.
For menopausal women facing the double whammy of increased cardiovascular risk and runaway diabetes, there are encouraging results. In one study the test subjects strictly adhered to the program—a clever way of saying they didn’t mind eating chocolate every day of the testing period! The results showed that flavonoids, the active ingredient in chocolate, reduced insulin resistance while minimizing the risk of heart disease in post-menopausal diabetic women, actually prolonging their lives over the next 10 years of daily consumption. How much better can it get? As it turns out—a lot!
The bioactive-mechanistic properties of chocolate and nitric oxides assist in vascular dilation, which is a fancy way of saying that chocolate helps with stiff arteries, and reduces LDL or ‘lousy’ cholesterol, particularly in overweight older adults. A sweet morsel not loaded with post-consumption guilt. What’s not to like?
My personal favorite involves ‘cocoa intervention’ as a means to fight heart disease. In this study there were two control groups: one given skim milk and cocoa and the other just skim milk. Surprise! The group given the chocolate milk showed that the 39 compounds linked to the intake of cocoa minimizes free radicals, known to cause cancer and raise the risk of heart disease.
But Wait—There’s More!
There are mental benefits, too! Plagued by losing that thought before it drifts out of your mouth, feel free to pop a bite of dark chocolate while it’s still open! Doctors now know the absorbed flavonoids impact the parts of your brain connected with learning and memory. When these flavonoids interact with brain cells, neuroprotective and neuromodulatory proteins kick into high gear to assisting with brain connectivity through increased blood flow. This reaction has been shown to slow aging, dementia and disease-related cognitive decline.
From a psychological standpoint, another study looked at people who took the time to savor chocolate and actually tied in ritualistic behavior with goal-oriented benefits. In other words—relaxing and enjoying said chocolate works about as well as anything else!
Just Plain Fun!
Most important of all: chocolate has a tendency to bring on the fun. We channeled our inner Lucille Ball in Menopause Mondays with a clip of Lucy and Ethel stuffing chocolates in their mouths when they get behind at the factory! Who among us hasn’t laughed out loud at that?
So, here is some good advice for this unexpectedly special day in July: eat your chocolate—doctor’s orders!
Suffering in Silence is Out! Reaching Out is In!