When You Eat Chocolate Every Day, This Is What Happens To Your Body
BY KELSIE CALDERON/APRIL 29, 2020 9:52 AM EST
The idea of choosing to eat chocolate every day is a tempting one. Whether you received a sweet treat from your valentine, are recovering from a bad day at the office with a candy bar, or are simply just satisfying a craving, chocolate is sure to bring a smile to your face. Those of us with a sweet tooth can smile a bit bigger knowing that this sweet treat can do a lot more than just amp up our mood.
Researchers all over the world have found that chocolate comes with a number of benefits "with potential for clinical application," as Lee Berk, DrPH, the associate dean of research at Loma Linda University, told Healthline. Of course, she added that "[it helps that] chocolate is the most desired food in the world." It sure beats eating vegetables! But don't throw away all of your leafy greens just yet. Unfortunately, there are also some cons that come with chowing down on chocolate. Read on to see what exactly happens to your body when you eat chocolate every day.
If you eat chocolate every day, you could lower your blood pressure
Though you eating something sweet shouldn't make your doctor happy when checking your blood pressure, it turns out it might be a treat for them too. Chocolate contains chemicals called flavonoids, which are found in cocoa, that may lower a person's blood pressure, according to Harvard Medical School.
One study conducted by researchers from Germany's University Hospital of Cologne and reported by WebMD found that enjoying 30 calories of chocolate each day — which is about as many calories are in a Hershey's Kiss — lowered blood pressure of those at risk of developing hypertension. However, the secret is to enjoy dark chocolate, which contains the highest amount of cocoa. Those in the study who ate white chocolate every day, which contains no cocoa, had absolutely no changes to their blood pressure. Researchers concluded that the higher the amount of cocoa in the chocolate, the healthier it is because of the many flavonoids it contains.
Researchers advised, "Although the magnitude of the blood pressure reduction was small, the effects are clinically noteworthy." However, as delicious as it may be, don't think that eating chocolate every day can replace a healthy diet and exercise plan.
You could prevent inflammation when you eat chocolate every day
Being sick is no fun, but eating chocolate always seems to help us feel better. And now there's even some science that proves that treating yourself to this sweet may prevent you from feeling ill.
To fight off germs, your immune system's natural response is inflammation. The bad news is that long-term, chronic inflammation isn't a good thing. It can damage cells which can then lead to major issues like diabetes, arthritis, and even cancer, according to Medical News Today. Good thing there's chocolate. Dark chocolate has been found to contain chemicals with anti-inflammatory properties that could help out.
One notable study published in The FASEB Journal in 2018 found that the activity of the genes that are responsible for helping regulate our immune systems increased after a week of regular dark chocolate consumption. Researchers concluded that enjoying dark chocolate on a daily basis can help when it comes to stopping inflammation.
You could protect your skin from the sun if you eat chocolate every day
Though it sounds crazy enough, you could provide your skin some serious sun protection if you eat chocolate every day.
Researchers for a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology in 2009 found that those who ate dark chocolate with high flavanol levels every day had doubled the protection against the sunshine. After three months of eating this sweet treat, the amount of UV rays that normally cause the skin to burn had to double before affecting those who'd consumed chocolate with high flavanol levels, as opposed to "conventional dark chocolate."
A 2006 study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that there are even more ways that this guilty pleasure can help your skin. With the increased blood flow that chocolate's chemicals provided, this sweet treat increased both participants' skin' density and hydration, giving otherwise scaly skin a presumably much more youthful look.
The more cocoa found in the type of chocolate consumed led to better results, so the next time you think about sitting out in the sweet sunshine know that it wouldn't hurt to eat a little chocolate.
When you eat chocolate every day, you may improve your memory
The next time you find yourself treating your tastebuds to some yummy chocolate, you'll be happy to know that you could actually be boosting your brainpower too. One study from Loma Linda University gave us all the more reason to enjoy this sweet treat on a daily basis. Researchers found that within 30 minutes of eating chocolate — specifically dark chocolate — participants experienced an "increase of gamma frequency in a major area of the brain," boosting memory recall and the process of new information, as explained by Healthline. What's even better is that this lasted for hours after the sweet treat was enjoyed.
"As we age, we lose the ability for optimal cognitive thinking, our processing and memory, and recall," researcher Lee Berk, DrPH, a dean of research at Loma Linda University, told Healthline. However, the flavonoids found in chocolate's cocoa are thought to help, which could be especially useful information when it comes to older generations suffering from memory loss. "If we indeed can enhance gamma frequency, we might benefit," Berk explained.
So the next time you need to boost your brainpower, maybe eat chocolate.
If you eat chocolate every day, it could help you work out
If you like to eat chocolate every day in moderation, you don't have to feel guilty. According to a study done at Kingston University, dark chocolate can actually help you when you're working out. "We found that people could effectively exercise for longer after eating dark chocolate — something that's not been established before in this way," lead researcher Rishikesh Kankesh Patel explained. It seems too good to be true, right? However, the same flavanol found in cacao beans, epicatechin, is responsible for this benefit to the body. It increases your nitric oxide production, which helps preserve oxygen to get us through tough workouts. The study found that cyclists used less oxygen after eating dark chocolate and even biked farther than they did before consuming the tasty treat.
"With so many athletes consuming beetroot juice to achieve this gain but complaining of the palatability, dark chocolate could have a similar effect but with the additional benefit of tasting good too," Dr. James Brouner, who teaches sports medicine at Kingston University London, said. It's a delicious excuse to enjoy some dark chocolate before hitting the gym.
Your bones could get weaker if you eat chocolate every day
Okay, okay, so the cocoa found in chocolate isn't a cure-all. And unfortunately, there are some cons if you eat chocolate every day. One of them is the health of your bones.
A 2008 study from the University of Western Australia School of Medicine and Pharmacology found that older women who ate chocolate each day had less bone strength and lower bone density. This could be because of the cocoa butter, sugar, and potentially harmful chemicals found in chocolate.
Though chocolate isn't so great for your bones, researchers at West Virginia University recommended consuming "unsweetened cocoa powder" in treats if you simply can't resist your craving, or, if not that, dark chocolate with "higher cocoa content." Dark chocolate has a high amount of flavonoids, that oh-so-great chemical found in its cocoa, that can help your bones a little better than milk or white chocolate can.
Eating chocolate every day can cause migraines
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it turns out that you can experience major pain if you eat chocolate every day. Some people who consume chocolate have reported an increase in migraines. While they may seem similar, migraines and headaches different — and when you experience a migraine, what happens to your body can be debilitating. According to the American Migraine Foundation, alcohol is the biggest food trigger for migraines with chocolate following closely behind. Twenty-two percent of people suffering from migraines have attributed their pain to this tasty treat.
This apparent link between the consumption of chocolate and the onset of migraines does make sense. Some of the chemicals found in foods like cocoa have been known to make migraines even more prevalent.
However, before migraine sufferers with a sweet tooth ditch their beloved chocolate altogether, the American Migraine Foundation notes that no scientific studies have actually proven that chocolate really is responsible for triggering migraines.
If you eat chocolate every day, you could ward off depression
There's a reason eating chocolate makes us happy. According to a study published in Depression & Anxiety in 2019, eating dark chocolate can potentially lower a person's risk of depression. And if that isn't the happiest news you've heard today, it gets even better: Research found that people who ate the most dark chocolate each day showed the lowest risk for depressive symptoms. And chocolate already seems to be the go-to cure too. An Australian study from 2007 found that it's exactly what half of people "who are depressed" reportedly crave.
We can also spread the happiness to our kids — before they're even born. One study published in Early Human Development in 2004 (via New Scientist) found that pregnant women who ate chocolate every day of their pregnancies reported babies who smiled and laughed more.
Of course, enjoying a delicious sweet is sure to put a smile on anyone's face, but, according to Psychiatric Times, there is a scientific explanation for all this, and it has to do with the flavanols found in the cocoa that heighten our happiness. That's some science to smile about.
If you eat chocolate every day, you could be ingesting heart-healthy antioxidants
While you may "heart" chocolate, it turns out chocolate "hearts" your heart too. According to one Swedish study, eating a square of dark chocolate every day may reduce the risk of having a heart attack by 39 percent, as reported by Women's Health. Additionally, research published in Chemistry Central Journal in 2011 found that, because of the special flavonoids found in its cocoa, dark chocolate contains more antioxidants — which help keep blood pumping smoothly to your heart — than many fruits, including blueberries and acai berries. In fact, according to Women's Health, dark chocolate contains five times the amount of flavonoids than an apple!
However, don't think this is an excuse to avoid incorporating fruits and vegetables into your diet. "I think the key point is that chocolate is a wonderful treat, but it's not really a health food," Harvard Medical School professor, Dr. JoAnn Manson, MPH, DrPH, told Healthline. Yes, this sweet treat contains antioxidants that may increase your heart health, but chocolate still "tends to be high in calories, saturated fat, and sugar," she added.
But still, one small square can't hurt. After all, the heart wants what it wants.
When you eat chocolate every day, you might experience heartburn
Chocolate has a not-so-special side effect that may have those with a sweet tooth thinking twice before treating themselves — the dreaded heartburn. While chocolate may be good at keeping the heart pumping, another chemical found in this sweet treat, called methylxanthine, relaxes the muscles in the valve between the stomach and the esophagus. This causes the valve to stay open, giving stomach acid an easy escape into the esophagus to bring on — you guessed it — heartburn, according to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.
In fact, because of this, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommends that people who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease avoid eating chocolate altogether just so they don't have to deal with this condition. So while you may yearn to eat chocolate every day, it may not be worth it if you don't also yearn for heartburn... and who does?
Eating chocolate every day can help reduce stress
What's good for the heart is good for the soul — and for your stress levels. While chocolate is already hard at work getting us in a good mood, it could also lower the amount of anxiety and stress we experience. According to the medical research team at Johns Hopkins Medicine, people who ate dark chocolate reported feeling less stressed. And there is some actual science to back this up. After participants ate chocolate each day, researchers found that the levels of the hormone cortisol, which is responsible for stirring up stress, decreased. Not only is this good for a sound mind, but lower stress levels are helpful for maintaining a healthy heart too. These hormones could help decrease the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
However, for those of us who love milk chocolate instead, there's still some good news. A study published in the International Journal of Health Sciences in 2014 found that eating 40 grams of dark or milk chocolate every day was an "effective way to reduce perceived stress in females." Turns out, choosing to eat chocolate every day may not be so bad after all if done in moderation.
If you eat chocolate every day, you might gain weight
While choosing to eat chocolate every day in moderation can help out our health in small ways, it's still a sweet treat, and, unfortunately, those aren't usually so good when it comes to weight gain — even dark chocolate. "I hate to ruin the fun, but I wouldn't recommend relying on dark chocolate to improve your health," registered dietician Ali Webster, PhD, told Healthline. "Dark chocolate is a concentrated source of calories and eating too much of it can lead to eating too many calories in general, which may result in weight gain."
So, you obviously shouldn't ever substitute chocolate for fruits and veggies. But if you still want chocolate but want to avoid gaining unwanted pounds, experts suggest choosing chocolate that is 85 percent cacao to take advantage of all the benefits chocolate can provide. "You want to make sure that the chocolate you're consuming is fitting within the context of your daily nutritional needs and your daily calorie needs," registered dietician Jessica Cording, MS, CDN, explained to Healthline.
You could get kidney stones if you eat chocolate every day
The development of kidney stones is woefully one of the drawback of choosing to eat chocolate every day. While chocolate contains many good chemicals, it also contains a chemical called oxalate. When too much oxalate combines with calcium in the kidneys, they form large stone-like masses that can cause a lot of discomfort and pain. For those who suffer from chronic kidney stones, experts unfortunately recommend cutting out chocolate altogether in order to avoid them, according to Harvard Medical School.
However, if your sweet tooth has you wanting to indulge in chocolate on a daily basis, eating it alongside a calcium-rich food or drink is the best way to go. The National Kidney Foundation says that by eating these together, the calcium and oxalate will bind together in the stomach before making their way to the kidneys. This combination early on in the digestive process keeps them from turning into painful stones. Makes sense why a glass of milk and a chocolate chip cookie is such a satisfying snack.
If you eat chocolate every day, you might be sleepier
If you find yourself making the choice to eat chocolate every day during a mid-day slump, it may boost your mood, but it can also send you into a slumber. While chocolate does contain caffeine, dark chocolate contains serotonin, which helps you relax and can make you quite sleepy.
For those looking to hit snooze on sleepiness, milk chocolate is the treat you should eat. It contains no serotonin, according to Sleep.org. In fact, a 1.55-ounce bar of Hershey's milk chocolate has about the same amount of caffeine as three cups of decaffeinated coffee, as noted by Health.
Interestingly, a 2002 study done at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Virginia linked eating chocolate to nightmares in people who have rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder, or RBD, as reported by New Scientist. Those with RBD may "unknowingly act out violent nightmares," leading to "thrashing" and "shouting." The researchers believed that the caffeine in chocolate may block how the body paralyzes people while they dream. "I admit this is just a case report, but I still think it's interesting," researcher Robert Vorona told BBC News
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