Easter is here and you’ve probably been tucking into a chocolate egg or two (who hasn’t?), perhaps feeling a little guilty for indulging in the melt-in-the-mouth treat. But don’t despair just yet. Chocolate has earned a reputation for being bad for us – but it actually has some amazing health and beauty benefits.
Cocoa, in its pure, unprocessed form, is a nutritious ingredient high in a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It’s when it is processed at high temperatures and mixed with refined sugars, dairy products and additives to make commercial chocolate bars that it becomes unhealthy.
Several studies have suggested that high quality dark chocolate could help to keep wrinkles at bay, mainly due to the antioxidants it contains. “Scientific data supports eating chocolate high in flavonoids, an antioxidant compound typically found in dark chocolate, can protect your skin, primarily against sunburn and UV damage,” says cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Oscar Hevia. “One study did show that after three months, ingestion of high-flavonol chocolate also improved skin thickness, hydration, and microcirculation, thereby improving the appearance of skin.”
So grab a bar of chocolate, as dark as you can stand, and read on to find out more about cocoa’s brilliant beauty benefits.
1. It promotes healthy skin
Cocoa is a source of many essential nutrients including copper, zinc, selenium and vitamins A and K, all of which play a key role in helping to maintain a healthy complexion. As well as eating chocolate to help achieve glowing skin, you can also apply it topically for an extra beauty boost. Cocoa pod extract has demonstrated high potential as a cosmetic ingredient due to its anti-wrinkle, skin whitening, and sunscreen effects. Look for natural skincare products containing cocoa-derived ingredients, or make your own skin-softening cacao mask.
2. It reduces stress
Ever reach for a bar of chocolate when you’ve had a stressful day? It’s not a coincidence. There’s just something about chocolate – even just the smell of it – that makes you feel instantly better. It is not clear whether chocolate’s positive effect on our mood is down to its chemical makeup or simply its pleasing aroma, but anything that reduces stress levels is good news for our appearance. High stress levels can cause skin problems such as breakouts, eczema and premature ageing, as well as hair loss and brittle nails.
3. It fights wrinkles
The antioxidants found in cocoa can help to fight free radical damage and therefore help to prevent premature ageing. Flavonoids have demonstrated the potential to protect against UV radiation-induced cell damage. So as well as eating a rainbow of different fruits and vegetables to help fight free radicals, you can up your antioxidant game by regularly consuming dark chocolate. Remember, the darker the chocolate, the higher the flavonol content, so choose a bar with the highest cocoa content you can find for the greatest benefit.
4. It helps protect against UV rays
As well as helping to protect against free radicals caused by the sun’s rays, regularly eating chocolate rich in flavonols can significantly protect the skin from UV light. Therefore, in addition to staying safe in the sun and opting for natural sunscreens, eating chocolate can help to protect your skin from the inside out. Not only does it help to prevent sunburn, the consumption of high-flavonol chocolate can help to boost circulation to the skin and increase hydration.
5. It helps protect teeth
Theobromine, one of the chemical compounds found in chocolate, may help to maintain healthy teeth, and could be used as a non-toxic alternative to fluoride. In a couple of different studies, theobromine showed significant protection of tooth enamel and remineralisation in artificial and real human teeth. However, since low quality chocolate usually contains high levels of our teeth’s number one enemy, sugar, it is important to choose your chocolate carefully so as not to counteract the potential benefits. A square or two of raw chocolate is one of the best choices since it is usually made with unrefined natural sweeteners, or try a bar with a pure 100% cocoa content.
Photos via Pixabay and Unsplash.