Recently, Deputy Chief Executive Officer for Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr. Emmanuel Opoku, has urged Ghanaians to consume more cocoa products, especially chocolates as staple foods.
He said cocoa products, including chocolate, offers a lot of nutritional benefits and strengthened the body’s immune system. He said chocolate does not only boost the immune system, but also improved the cognitive abilities.
Dr. Opoku made these remarks when the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) together with COCOBOD and the Cocoa Processing Company (CPC) donated cocoa products to the Ga East Municipal Hospital. They also presented hand sanitizers, liquid soaps, face masks, among others, to commemorate the National Chocolate Day, on 14th February.
He said the Day was designated by COCOBOD and its partners to sensitize Ghanaians about the nutritional and economic benefits of Cocoa products, especially chocolates.
Chocolate is a preparation of roasted and ground cacao seeds that is made in the form of a liquid, paste, or in a block, which may also be used as a flavoring ingredient in other foods. Chocolate is one of the most popular food types and flavors in the world, and many foodstuffs involving chocolate exist, particularly in desserts. Many candies are filled with or coated with sweetened chocolate. The following are some health and nutritional benefits that come with consuming more chocolate:
- It can help your heart to stay healthy
Lots of studies reveal that the flavonoids in chocolate can help your veins and arteries to stay supple. Over 7 studies followed 114,000 participants who were given a few servings of dark chocolate a week. The results showed that their risk of getting a heart attack was reduced by about 37% while the chances of getting a stroke were 29% less when they had a higher consumption of chocolate.
- It may help improve your memory as you get older
Research has shown that when elderly people were given specially prepared cocoa extracts which was high in flavanols, their cognitive function greatly improved. The only problem is that when it comes to eating chocolate, the percentage of those cocoa flavanols is much reduced due to the processing and the addition of eggs, sugar and milk.
- It may make you better at math
I was never good at math at school. Maybe I should have eaten more dark chocolate! This is the startling conclusion I have reached after reading about the research of Professor David Kennedy who is Director of Brain, Performance and Nutrition at the Research Center of Northumbria University (UK). Participants were given 500 mg of flavanols in a hot cocoa drink. They benefited from increased flow to the brain as a result and were better at coping with difficult math equations.
- It may put you in a better mood
I wish my uncle had given my aunt some chocolate when he told her to stop crying and to ‘cheer up.’ He obviously had not read about the work at the University of Swinburne in Australia. These guys again targeted the cocoa polyphenols and they found that it had a beneficial effect on the mood of the participants who were calmer and happier.
- It may help lower cholesterol levels
The Journal of Nutrition carries an interesting article about the results of a study done to determine whether dark chocolate could have any effect on the LDL cholesterol levels. They found that when subjects were given bars of dark chocolate with plant sterols and flavanols, they were getting lower scores on their cholesterol levels.
- It can help you with your workout
Another magical flavanol in chocolate is epicatechin. Mice were given this substance and they were much fitter and stronger than those mice on water only. Researchers say that to get the best results from your workout you have to limit the amount to only about half of one square of chocolate a day! If you have too much, it could undo the beneficial effects.
- It is very nutritious
Did you know that if choose chocolate with a high cocoa content (75% to 85%) you are getting a very nutritious snack? Take the typical 100 gram chocolate bar. It has almost all of your RDA for copper and manganese. It contains over half your magnesium RDA and about two thirds (67%) of your RDA for iron. It also has about 10% of fiber. There is also lots of zinc, selenium and potassium too.
- It can help to lower your blood pressure
You may not know it but having the right amount of NO (Nitric Oxide) in your body can help your arteries to relax. That will, in turn help to take some of the pressure off them and the result is a lower BP count. Just another benefit of the dark chocolate flavanols which help to produce this vital Nitric Oxide.
- It may reduce pregnancy complications
One of the complications of pregnancy is known as preeclampsia in which blood pressure can shoot up. Researchers have established that one of the chemicals in dark chocolate, theobromine, can stimulate the heart and help the arteries dilate. When pregnant women were given higher doses of chocolate, they had a 40% less chance of developing this complication.
- It may help with diabetes
You probably think that chocolate is too sweet for diabetics and is one of their banned treats, but one small study at the University of L’Aquila in Italy found that the right does of chocolate flavonoids can help the body’s metabolism and enhance insulin function. This could benefit people with diabetes but more studies need to be done.