By Alex Eriksson
Until now, there are still plenty of misconceptions about eating chocolate. Is it really bad? Or does it actually have health benefits?
Perhaps, the only thing that everyone will agree on is how delicious chocolate can be.
For someone who is (or is trying to be) a fitness enthusiast, you know that your diet is as important as your workout routine. But then again, self-indulgence also helps in your wellness journey. You should give yourself a break every once in a while to feel relaxed and happy.
It doesn’t have to be a grand vacation to a popular beach resort, although that would certainly be fun. You can also do so in simple ways such as by enjoying comfort foods like chocolates – of course, all in good moderation.
Chocolates, with their perfect blend of sweetness and bitterness, are often regarded as comfort foods due to their taste and texture. However, there is actually more to them than their taste.
Setting up food ultimatums is not good even if you want to abide by a nutritious meal plan. If you are craving chocolate, grab some, but make sure it is the nourishing kind.
Not All Chocolates Are Created Equal
So, can you just grab a chocolate bar from your nearest convenience store? The answer is: It depends. There are different kinds of chocolates out there; the majority of them are likely to be so delicious they can improve your mood in an instant. However, while some of them can help you stay healthy, not all of them are good for you even though they might taste good.
Surprisingly, dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao) is the kind of treat that suits a healthy lifestyle. When you were a child, you probably didn’t like dark chocolate as much as milk chocolate since it tends to be bitter.
Sweet milk chocolates may be more tempting but milk chocolates are actually the cacao derivatives best to avoid.
This is due to their high sugar and milk content. Too much sugary carbohydrates, as you may know, can disrupt your blood sugar levels and cause all sorts of metabolic problems. Diabetes is one of the worst signs that you gone too heavy on the sugar.
Why Choose Dark Chocolate?
Cacao beans are the most essential ingredient in the production of chocolates. These beans come from the Theobroma cacao tree. The basic ingredient (the beans) are usually bitter so you should expect the end-product to have the same taste, unless flavoring and other ingredients are thrown into the mix.
Sugar and milk become valuable ingredients in chocolates because they help offset the innate bitterness of the cacao beans. This make the chocolates more palatable, but less beneficial.
If you can hardly stand the bitter taste from dark chocolates whose cacao content is beyond 90%, you can always go for ones that have at least 70%. Just don’t go any lower than that. Too much of the sugary kind is going to be bad for your teeth, heart, and weight loss goals.
How about the dark one? Consuming more concentrated forms of cacao beans means you get more epicatechin, a beneficial type of flavonol antioxidant. Food supplements that contain epicatechins have been on the market for years and they can help do many amazing things such as:
- increase your muscle mass
- boost your testosterone levels
- enhance your erections
- improve your endurance
- assist in your weight loss
Building Muscle Mass
One of the notable properties of epicatechin is its ability to hinder myostatin’s effect on your body. Myostatin is a protein in your muscles and its job is to stop muscle growth. If you are an athlete, a bodybuilder or just an ordinary guy who wants to beef up his body, myostatin will be one of your enemies.
Thankfully, a bar of dark chocolate can spare you from the effects of said protein. Aside from restricting myostatin, the delectable treat can increase the production of follistatin. The latter’s job is opposite of that of myostatin. Follistatin is partly responsible for increasing muscle mass.
Epicatechin may also affect your sexual health by boosting your testosterone levels. In a study conducted on animals, the said chemical can stimulate the pituitary gland which is the gland responsible for the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) and gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH). LH and GnRH are two hormones that send signal to the Leydig cells in the testicles to produce more testosterone.
High testosterone levels make you more masculine. It increases your libido and makes you feel more confident about yourself. The boost in libido and confidence can also improve your sexual performance and endurance, making you a better lover overall.
Cacao and its derivatives are among the best natural vasodilators. Other good natural vasodilators also include grapes, pomegranates, watermelons, cayenne pepper, garlic, ginger, onion, beet, celery, kale, raw honey and red wine.
Vasodilators are agents that increase the production of nitric oxide. This compound relaxes the muscular walls of blood vessels, allowing them to dilate. The widening of the blood vessels facilitates better blood circulation all throughout the body.
So what is the relationship between blood circulation and erections? The secret to more long-lasting and firmer erections is blood circulation. When there is poor blood flow in your manhood, it is likely to go limp and have other erectile problems. The increase in testosterone levels is also a factor that contributes to better erections.
Aside from better erections, the improved blood flow can be beneficial to your physical and sexual endurance. As your blood vessels widen, more nutrients can be delivered into various parts of your body. This is vital for your workout sessions, sexual escapades, and even daily life.
During workouts, vasodilation is necessary to deliver nutrients faster and more efficient. This results in better performance as well as enhanced recovery.
If you have weight issues, dark chocolate can also be your friend. Dark chocolates have no direct fat burning effect like most weight loss supplements promise to do. However, chocolate can actually act like a natural appetite suppressant. If you want to curb some midnight snacking and other eating habits, these healthy sweets might help you achieve your goal.
How to Include a Healthy Amount of Chocolate in Your Diet
The recommended amount of dark chocolate you have to consume every day to benefit is 40 to 50 grams. You can also consume it in snacks and drinks. This should be enough to let you reap the powers of epicatechin.
You are supposed to consume fruits, vegetables and other natural foods regularly to maintain health. However, that doesn’t mean you have to totally avoid comfort foods. When it comes to your diet, you should focus on eating nutritious meals most of the time, not on perfecting a meal plan that only include natural produce.
In conclusion, chocolates are wonderful treats regardless of your age. However, not all of them are healthy. If you want to add them to your healthy diet, you should opt for dark chocolates (at least 70%) even though they are not as sweet as their milk chocolate counterparts.
A daily dose of 40 to 50 grams of dark chocolate can help increase your muscle mass, boost your testosterone levels, enhance your erections, improve your endurance and assist in your weight loss. Considering that long list of benefits, you can rest at ease while munching on a bar of dark chocolate.
Alex Eriksson is the founder of Anabolic Health, a men’s health blog dedicated to providing honest and research backed advice for optimal male hormonal health. Anabolic Health aspires to become a trusted resource where men can come and learn how to fix their hormonal problems naturally, without pharmaceuticals.
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