With the holidays quickly approaching, this time of the season can be extremely stressful. Traveling, cleaning, cooking, and holiday shopping all add extra stress. But if you sit down and relax for a few minutes to eat some dark chocolate, you might just feel better!
Researchers at the Nestlé Research Center in Lausanne, Switzerland suggest that eating a few pieces of dark chocolate every day can improve metabolic response for people who are highly stressed.
Sunil Kochhar and a group of researchers studied the metabolic responses of 30 healthy adult volunteers who consumed 20 grams of dark chocolate every day for 14 days. The individuals in the group were classified with high and low anxiety levels. They collected urine and blood plasma in the beginning, halfway through and at the end of the two week period to analyze specific energy metabolism and gut microbial activities.
In the end, the researchers saw that the subjects with higher anxiety had distinct metabolic profiles. With different energy and gut microbe activities, the dark chocolate decreased the amount of stress hormones, cortisol and catecholamines. The chocolate also partially normalized stress-related biochemical differences in energy metabolism and microbial activities.
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According to the findings, published in The Journal of Proteome Research,“the study provides strong evidence that a daily consumption of 40 grams of dark chocolate during a period of 2 weeks is sufficient to modify the metabolism of free living and healthy human subjects, as per variation of both host and gut microbial metabolism.”
Tea, cranberries, strawberries and several fruits all are strong sources of antioxidants, but per serving dark chocolate has more antioxidants than green tea or red wine. Antioxidants like flavonoids, epicatechin and gallic acid, all aid in antioxidant activity. Flavonoids, also known as vitamin P and citrin can also help capillary permeability, blood flow, anti-allergy and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Besides containing more stress-relieving antioxidants, you enjoy more health benefits from dark chocolate because it has more cocoa, a lower sugar content, less saturated fat, less cholesterol and a higher iron content than milk chocolate. University of Michigan Integrative Medicine found that milk chocolate does not offer antioxidant activity like dark chocolate because the milk binds to the antioxidants. You have to have 70 percent cocoa solids and no milk for antioxidants to be present.
Antioxidants in dark chocolate may also reduce risk for heart disease, lower blood pressure, protect from skin cancer and relieve pain. Other studies show that dark chocolate can increase the production of serotonin and endorphins, reducing stress levels and relieving chronic fatigue syndrome.
So take a break and treat yourself to the occasional dark chocolate snack. Don’t stress over the holidays or eating chocolate, it might actually decrease your stress!