Did you know that dark chocolate is now considered to be a powerful antioxidant and may help you during the cold and flu season? Considering that the flu season appears to have more new cases this year compared to last, dark chocolate might just be your new “rescue remedy”.
Thanks to its unique, rich and sweet taste, the sales of dark chocolate from the best chocolatiers continue to soar rapidly across the country and around the globe. Most people do not realize the health benefits that can be generated from such great tasting “medicine”.
Nutritional Studies Tout Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
There is a growing number of natural health studies demonstrating the health benefits of dark chocolate consumption. Small studies presented at the Experimental Biology 2018 conference and published in the FASEB journal from Loma Linda University in California, indicated the positive effects of dark chocolate on overall general wellness. From this, it was determined that the chocolate containing (70%) cacao concentration or more had the highest impact on various health conditions. In other words, the higher the concentration of the cacao, the better.
Some Salient Facts About Chocolate
Chocolate is made from Theobroma cacao tree seeds. It is now acknowledged scientifically that higher concentrations from the seeds produce the highest amount of antioxidants. Antioxidants, as you recall, help fight off free radicals. Free radicals may cause damage to your DNA and other cell damage which includes causing a normal cell to change and become an abnormal cell. Additionally, this may manifest as some form of chronic disease including arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. Milk chocolate, on the other hand, has not shown the same health benefits. It also contains less iron, magnesium, and naturally does not contain the antioxidant levels needed.
What Are the Experts Saying?
From all indications, it appears that dark chocolate is now one of the top food supplements to boost the immune system, as well as provide other anti-aging properties. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition suggested its ability to lower cholesterol and decrease LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or what is known as our “bad cholesterol”.
A study out of Harvard Medical School showed a positive effect on cognition and memory decline specifically. Another clinical study from the British Medical Journal indicated cardiovascular improvement and reduction of heart disease by 33% with regular consumption of dark chocolate. More research published in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition showed its potential to boost available oxygen in athletes. Scientists believe the success of dark chocolate is due to it containing flavanols known as epicatechins, which can boost nitric oxide levels in the blood.
All of this is good news for chocolate lovers, but even most impressive is the noted benefit it has on increasing the expression of genes involved in the activation of T-cells. As you may know, our T-cells are also known as T- lymphocytes and are the white blood cells that help us fight off all types of infections, whether, bacterial, viral, fungal or parasitic. Furthermore, other benefits of eating the dark chocolate before bedtime can improve sleep by helping to relax the nervous system utilizing the magnesium present in the chocolate.
Dark Chocolate, Nutrition, Immunity, And Genetics. What’s the Connection?
Understanding that chocolate has the potential to increase the expression of certain genes involved in boosting the immune system via white blood cell and T-cell activation, it is most interesting relative to fighting off the enemy and entourage of germs, for preventing infections and reducing the autoimmune response. Researchers are just now beginning to understand how genes affect nutrition and overall immunity. It turns out, the probability of contracting many diseases is or can be influenced by genetics. The association between a healthy balanced diet, nutritional supplementation, exercise, and chronic diseases including cancer is well-known. Nutrients supplied by food are known to be important variables in gene expression throughout the body.
What Have We Learned So Far?
- The immune system declines as we age, making us more susceptible to various diseases and pathogens.
- Immune system health is closely related to stress, frequency of exercise, and nutritional status. Poor intake of vital nutrients including supplements that enhance the immune system is associated with depressed immune response and increased rate of disease. Knowing that 90% of adults are nutritionally deficient, immune-boosting nutrients including dark chocolate can make a difference.
- The immune system has two primary defense mechanisms: natural, which uses white blood cells and physical barriers to protect against disease, and acquired, in which, specialized cells generate antibodies to defend against specific pathogens.
- Inflammation is caused by multiple factors including microorganisms, physical stress, tissue death, and inappropriate immune response. In addition, knowing that nearly 70% of inflammation comes from the gut with its abundance of serotonin receptors, dark chocolate could prove invaluable to individuals who are diagnosed with leaky gut ( when small pores or openings in the lining of the gut allow toxins and bacteria to flow directly into the bloodstream.
Supporting a Healthy Immune System
A healthy immune system becomes ever more important as we begin to age. Seniors are at high risk due to multiple factors related to metabolic, hormonal, increased prescription drug use, digestive disorders, and stress-related nervous system dysfunction. We know that a healthy immune status is closely associated with good nutrition, a healthy diet, moderate exercise, hydration, stress reduction, and quality sleep. Many times, sleep is overlooked. Studies show a direct link between insomnia and increased incidence of infections due to poor immune response. Older people are especially at risk, due to the majority of them with histories of some type of sleep disorder.
Maybe, this holiday season, toss the guilt aside, and indulge in a therapeutic dose of dark chocolate, the “sweetest immune booster”, and fight off the flu the 2020 way.