Winter is here and you know what that means: it’s hot chocolate season! This is that blessed time of the year where we can fill up our mugs with piping hot cocoa, sprinkle in some tiny marshmallows and chocolate shavings, maybe a dash of cinnamon, and sip on this cozy, sweet treat as the temperature drops. A good cup of hot chocolate heats us up, but did you know that it can also warm up your health? Cocoa has some surprising health benefits. Read on as we break down how this tasty, delicious treat can (in moderation!) actually be good for you.
Rich in Antioxidants
Hot chocolate is a delicious source of polyphenols. Polyphenols are a form of antioxidants that are often found in fruits, vegetables, tea, wine, and chocolate. Antioxidants have strong anti-inflammatory properties and have also been linked to improved blood flow and cholesterol. Antioxidants also help with the aging process by attacking free radicals in our body that help break down our skin’s elasticity and accelerate the development of wrinkles and other visible signs of aging.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Research has found that cocoa (both in its powdered form and as dark chocolate) may be able to lower our blood pressure. Cocoa contains flavanols (a type of polyphenol) which can enhance the functioning of your blood vessels and reduce blood pressure. The effect isn’t significantly strong but even a small decrease of blood pressure can be a good thing.
Reduces Risk of Heart Attack & Stroke
Another added benefit that comes from cocoa’s high flavanol count is that it could help protect you from serious life-threatening conditions. Flavanols improve the level of nitric oxide in your blood. Nitric oxide helps relax and dilate your arteries and blood vessels, improving blood flow and making sure that every part of your body gets the oxygen it needs to function properly. This improved functionality could help lower your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Improves Brain Function & Memory
Getting ready to take a test? Reading into the wee hours? Consider switching out your coffee for a cup of hot chocolate. Cocoa can help improve brain functioning by increasing blood flow to the brain. This improved functioning does wonders for both your cognition and for memory retention.
Helps Alleviate Depression
Who said you couldn’t sip your way to happiness? Studies have found that people who drink cocoa and eat dark chocolate go on to report fewer depressive symptoms and exhibit a more positive mindset. It’s also been reported to have a positive impact on stress reduction thanks to cocoa’s physical effects on our blood flow and cognition.
Article by Austin Brietta
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