Flavonoids, Chocolate and Your Health
Chocolate and Your Health - How Flavonoids Help
Flavonoids and Chocolate
Chocolate is one of the healthiest foods on the planet. If this sentence makes you raise an eyebrow in suspicion, then read on. Chocolate has been used for medicinal purposes in North America since the 1500's. While it is true that large quantities of chocolate just like with any other food are not healthy, you only need small portions of chocolate each day to enjoy numerous health benefits. One of the main components of chocolate that greatly contributes to its protective properties are flavonoids. Flavinoids are type of plant specific nutrient often referred to as phytonutrients. Flavonoids have a number of different positive physiological effects on the body.
Prevention of Atherosclerosis
Free radicals cause injury to the inside of blood vessels and promote plaque buildup. Flavonoids can counteract these changes and reduce vessel inflammation. Men who regularly consume flavonoids have lower cholesterol levels (Arai 2000) and a lower risk of death from heart disease (Hertog 1995). Since dementia is partially caused by blood vessel inflammation, flavonoids also play a role in dementia prevention (Commenges 2000). Flavonoids also prevent platelets from sticking together, which lowers the risk for blood clots and dilates the arteries to improve blood flow.
Flavonoid compounds exert strong anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting an enzyme known as cyclooxygenase the same enzyme that is inhibited by over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen. Flavonoids also reduce the activity of the enzyme eicosanoid, which further limits inflammation (Formica 1995).
Cancer Prevention Effects
Free radical damage stimulates abnormal duplication of cells, which increases cancer risk. Flavonoids, however, hinder the replication of cancerous cells (Stefani 1999). In fact, people with the highest flavonoid intake have the lowest risk of lung cancer (Knekt 1997).
Osteoporosis is a disease where bone mineral density declines and raises the risk for fractures. Women who consume greater flavonoid amounts have higher bone mineral density levels than those who consume lower levels (Hegarty 2000), which makes chocolate a great addition to the diet in anyone with low bone density or susceptibility to fracture. It seems that natural substances and natural vitamins simply know best.
Flavonoids exert antiviral effects that are effective in warding off infections such as herpes, influenza, and adenovirus. In fact, some flavonoids can inhibit the replication of the HIV virus and have even been studied as a potential HIV treatment (Ng 1997).
Obviously, flavonoids hold tremendous health properties. But the question still remains will eating chocolate cause these same benefits. The answer is yes! Dozens of studies have been performed on the health benefits of consuming cocoa and chocolate.
Eating small amounts of chocolate on a regular basis lowers blood pressure, improves insulin resistance, prevents blood vessel damage, and combats free radical damage (Selmi 2008). Adding dark chocolate to the diet for just 1 week lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol by 8 points, raises HDL (good) cholesterol by 6 points, and reduces blood vessel inflammation (Hamed 2008). All of these benefits add up to a 50% lower risk of heart disease (Cooper 2008) and a lower cancer risk (Weisburger 2001) in those who eat chocolate on a regular basis.
Overall, chocolate is a rich source of flavonoids that helps to ward off many different chronic diseases. Chocolate should be eaten regularly, but in small quantities, to reap these benefits. Coupled with a diet that is rich in natural foods abundant in vitamins and minerals , chocolate is the perfect accent to a healthy lifestyle.
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Title: Flavonoids, Chocolate and Your Health