It's National Chocolate Week everybody, and we are, naturally, extremely excited.
The creamy, deliciousness of chocolate is more than enough reason to convince us it's worth munching on, but did you know there are scientifically proven benefits of eating it too?
Cocoa is a highly nutritional food, making it great for so much more than our taste buds alone. It can improve our health, both physically and mentally, and even have a positive impact on our appearance.
Given chocolate's impressive profile, it's no real surprise there's a whole week dedicated to the stuff. Discover our 10 benefits of chocolate now and celebrate International Chocolate Week guilt-free.
10 benefits of eating chocolate
1. Chocolate is good for your heart
Why are we always told dark chocolate is a healthier choice? Additionally to containing less sugar, dark chocolate has a high percentage of cocoa, which is rich in flavanols.
These flavanols are particularly beneficial for our circulatory system. They stimulate the lining of the arteries to produce Nitric Oxide, which works to relax arteries and reduce blood pressure.
The effects of flavanols on our heart have been proven in various studies.
Give your heart a break this International Chocolate Week and indulge in some high cocoa content dark chocolate.
2. Eating chocolate could help you lose weight
Could the food with a bad reputation for weight gain actually be the key to weight loss? It may sound contradictory, but chocolate has been proven to reduce appetite, encouraging us to eat less.
Indulging in a square of high-quality chocolate 20 minutes before a meal triggers the hormones that tell us we're 'full' to be released, meaning we eat less. The same process after a meal will help prevent snacking later on.
Swap your fruity dessert for a square of chocolate this International Chocolate Week, and you may even shed a pound or two!
3. Reduce your cholesterol this National Chocolate Week
We're always hearing about cholesterol levels in the news. International Chocolate Week is the perfect time to pay your own some attention.
Cocoa has been shown to drastically decrease the oxidisation of 'bad' cholesterol. When 'bad' cholesterol becomes oxidised, it can damage other tissues, such as the lining of arteries.
Reducing oxidised cholesterol will, in turn, reduce the risk of heart disease.
4. Chocolate can improve your skin
Still need convincing to indulge this International Chocolate Week? What if I told you chocolate could also improve the appearance of your skin?
It's those mystical flavanols that are to thank for chocolate's beauty benefits. These antioxidants help protect skin from sun damage, reduce sun spots and even increase blood flow.
The result? A dewier, smoother looking complexion. That's without even mentioning the massive grin the chocolatey taste will put on your face!
5. Chocolate could prevent diabetes
Chocolate and diabetes aren't words you often hear side-by-side, at least, not in a positive way.
Dark chocolate has, however, been found to increase insulin sensitivity, serving to actually reduce the risk of diabetes.
6. Celebrate International Chocolate Week & do your brain some good
It's that fantastic F-word again - flavanols. Not only can these antioxidants promote a healthy heart and improve skin, they can also benefit the brain.
Eating dark chocolate full of flavanols increases the blood supply to the brain. This has been shown to improve brain function in elderly people, memory and also verbal fluency.
7. Quality chocolate is highly nutritious
Cocoa is not only full of antioxidants, but also many minerals that are great for overall health. Iron, Copper and Manganese can all be found in abundance in a bar of dark chocolate.
Additionally, chocolate is rich in fatty acids which have many benefits including regulation of blood pressure and proper thyroid function.
Health benefits are definitely a valid reason to indulge a little this International Chocolate Week.
8. Chocolate makes you feel fabulous
Putting a piece of chocolate in your mouth often feels like the hug you've needed all day long.
This feel-good factor isn't down to taste alone - the phenylethylamine inside releases the same endorphins as when we are falling in love, which explains that warm, fuzzy feeling.
9. Chocolate benefits mothers and babies
We still have one more scientifically backed-up benefit of eating chocolate up our sleeve.
Expectant mothers that indulge in chocolate regularly can expect to experience reduced stress levels, which, supposedly, results in happier, smilier babies!
We'll believe anything for a bar of chocolate...
10. Indulge your tastebuds this International Chocolate Week
Let's face it, if you're reading this, there's a 99.9% chance you like chocolate.
For us, at Expert Home Tips, that's enough of an excuse for us to indulge a little this International Chocolate Week.
That being said, not all chocolate is made equal. It's recommended to opt for chocolate containing a minimum of 70% solids if you want to reap all of the many nutritional benefits chocolate has to offer. Chocolates with a lesser quantity of cocoa are usually higher in sugar and fat, and much less valuable to the body.
If you want to really go all out this International Chocolate Week, try one of our top 6 chocolate recipes from the list below. They're both healthy and delicious, and will do your mind, body and soul a world of good!
Reap all the benefits of chocolate with these 6 healthy recipes
1. Salted dark chocolate granola
International Chocolate Week wouldn't be right without a chocolatey breakfast. My Baking Addiction's Salted Dark Chocolate Granola will fuel you with heaps of energy and an added dosing of happiness.
What a brilliant way to start the day.
2. Healthy dark chocolate chunk oatmeal cookie bars
Looking at Half Baked Harvest's cookie bars, you'd never guess they were healthy! They are packed full of slow-releasing energy, healthy fats, and - you guessed it - flavanols.
Ditch the supermarket biscuits this International Chocolate Week and knock up some of these beauties instead.
3. Dark chocolate detox bites
There is often much less choice when it comes to buying dark chocolate bars. The good news is that it's extremely easy to transform standard bars at home.
The View From Great Island melted down a few bars and topped them with an array of colourful, nutritional ingredients to make these super healthy treats.
4. Dark chocolate olive oil cake
Cake is always a good idea, and with all the benefits of chocolate, a chocolate cake is the ultimate choice.
Love & Lemons makes hers with unsweetened cocoa powder and olive oil for an extremely rich and indulgent cake. Why not take one into work and surprise all your colleagues?
5. Chocolate quinoa crispy squares
If your family loves Rice Crispy Treats, they'll love these Chocolate Quinoa Crispy Squares.
The Little Green Spoon's recipe requires just five ingredients, making these one of the easiest International Chocolate Week recipes ever!
6. Dark chocolate mug cake recipe
Last but not least is our very own Chocolate Mug Cake Recipe. Using just five ingredients and made in the microwave, you can make this cake just about anywhere!
Swap it for your usual afternoon snack for an instant energy and nutrition boost today.
Writing this article has made me love chocolate more than ever! What is your favourite way to enjoy chocolate?