Ask any self-respecting chocolate or wine lover why these foods are good for you and they’ll be able to answer faster than they can say their own mother’s birthday: antioxidants. The news that chocolate and wine – when consumed in moderation – may help our hearts was some of the best to hit the health community since sliced gluten-free bread. But here’s some more good news: the benefits of these delicious indulgences may not stop there.
Here are 10 more reasons to #treatyoself
CURB YOUR APPETITE
Your mother always said that chocolate would spoil your dinner and, according to science, she could be right! A 2011 study quantified this appetite-suppressing effect by giving participants 100 grams of either milk or dark chocolate two hours before being served an all-you-can-eat lunch.
Those who ate dark chocolate reported feeling less hungry, more satisfied, and ate 17% fewer calories overall.
Granted, 100 grams is quite a hefty portion, but, according to neuroscientist Will Clower, author of Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight, even a little bit of dark chocolate could do the trick. A small square of dark chocolate melted on the tongue 20 minutes before a meal triggers hormones in the brain that say “I’m full,” says Clower, thereby reducing the total amount of food you eat. Finishing your meal with the same small trigger may also reduce subsequent snacking, he says.
ACT AS A PREBIOTIC
PRE-biotics, such as the soluble fiber found in fruits, veggies, and SmartyPants Fiber Complete products, feed PRO-biotics, or, the good bacteria living in our guts. Researchers at Louisiana State University studied three different types of cocoa and found that our good gut bacteria like to eat dark chocolate as much as we do! According to the research, certain types of dark chocolate can feed the good bacteria living in our gut, helping it to grow and thrive. Meanwhile, by eating the chocolate, the good bacteria break down the chocolate’s antioxidant molecules – which in and of themselves are too large to be absorbed by the gut – making them smaller and more easily absorbable by our bodies.
PROTECT YOUR SKIN FROM SUN DAMAGE
Whaaaa? Yes, you read that right. Researchers at Germany’s Heinrich Heine University exposed chocolate eaters to ultraviolet light and found that, after six weeks, those that consumed high-flavanol cocoa had 15 percent less skin reddening. According to the study’s leader, Wilhelm Stahl, “We believe that compounds in chocolate can act as UV filters.” After 12 weeks, the chocolate eaters’ skin was also 16 percent denser and 42 percent less scaly. Read more about the other foods that help protect your skin from the inside out, here.
PROVIDE CRUCIAL MINERALS
We LOVE vitamins (obviously), but minerals are just as important to our daily health and wellness. Unfortunately, due to the quality of our soil and modern food processing methods, minerals can be difficult to get from many foods. Dark chocolate, however, is loaded with minerals. A 50 gram serving of 70-85% dark chocolate contains 35% of the Daily Value for iron, 30% of magnesium, 45% of copper, nearly 50% of manganese, plus potassium, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, and 5 grams of fiber!
BOOST YOUR MOOD
Eat a piece of chocolate, do the happy dance. Duh. But you don’t see people busting out the Harlem Shake when they eat a carrot – why is chocolate different? Because chocolate literally alters the chemicals in our brain. When we eat chocolate, our brains release three of the four primary chemicals responsible for our happiness: serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. Cocoa also contains phenylethylamine, a compound which changes blood pressure and blood sugar levels to make you feel excited and alert. In fact, phenylethylamine is known as the “love drug,” because it produces feelings similar to that tongue-tied, sweaty-hand feeling you get when you’re in luuuurve.
BOOST BRAIN FUNCTION
Insert obvious joke here. We all know that drinking too much wine (or any other kind of alcohol) definitely does not improve brain function. We have the texts to prove it. However, some research suggests that red wine, when consumed in moderation, could have some positive cognitive benefits. Researchers from the Universities of Texas, Kentucky, and Maryland studied the habits of more than 660 people and found that moderate alcohol consumption – up to two alcoholic beverages a day – by participants in the study over 60 years old, helped preserve the region of the brain responsible for memory and cognition. Maybe that’s why grandma never fails to remember the supremely awkward date you brought to Thanksgiving dinner, ten years ago.
Wine has been a part of mealtime for thousands of years and maybe not just because it helps make conversation. Some research shows that fermented alcoholic beverages such as wine can speed how fast food empties your stomach. Additionally, a glass of wine has been shown to stimulate gastric acid, which helps your stomach break down protein.
PROTECT AGAINST FOOD POISONING
Perhaps another reason why humans have historically paired food and wine is because wine has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. A few studies have even found that wine may help protect against pathogenic bacteria such as salmonella and h.pylori. If you’ve ever gotten a batch of bad clams, then you know that there may be no better reason to raise a glass before you sit down to chow.
The powerful antioxidants in red wine have been shown to help support heart health and protect the body against free radical damage, but one study from the University of California found that ethanol – the alcoholic component in wine – may also help support the immune system and improve its response to vaccination.
To study the impact of alcohol on the immune system, the researchers trained 12 rhesus macaque monkeys to drink alcohol. The researchers found that the monkeys that consumed moderate amounts of ethanol, the equivalent of around a glass of wine a day, displayed a greater immunity than the control group on sugar water. Conversely, the heavy-drinking monkeys – those who regularly consumed more than the legal driving limit – displayed weakened immune defenses.
Some research shows that a glass of wine can lift a bad mood. (If you’re a wine lover, this is probably not new information.) Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that alcohol affects the same chemical pathways in the brain as some prescription medications designed to boost mood, with effects lasting up to 24 hours. The scientists warned, though, that the positive benefits of wine begin to diminish after more than a glass or two – again, no new info here – so, everything in moderation.
SIP & SNACK SMARTY
While these studies show that our favorite treats may *possibly* have several benefits – in addition to giving us all the feels – keep in mind that they are only a handful of studies. The literature is in no way conclusive. Science is always changing and improving as better and more studies are conducted. Whenever you read articles that cite scientific evidence, it’s important to always read the findings for yourself. What may be appropriate for one, or even one hundred thousand people, may not work for you.
When it comes to chocolate and wine, common sense (and experience) tell us that you can you can definitely have too much of a good thing.
One great way to keep from pulling an Augustus Gloop and going overboard is to – as we like to say at SmartyPants – #upgrade your ingredients. Splurge on a nice bottle of organic wine and Fair Trade, dark chocolate – look for 72% cacao or higher – and savor them, slowly. Remember: good things come to those who wait.
Posted on February 1, 2017