When the coronavirus swept the planet in early 2020, nobody could have foreseen what a drastic change would happen practically overnight. It has been wild — causing a lot of suffering for many, and a complete shift in reality for almost everyone.
One thing that people want to know probably more than anything else when it comes to talking about COVID-19 is how to avoid it. It is important to follow recommendations on physical distancing and other advice from health care professionals.
Perhaps one of the least talked about but the most important things to do during this time is to stay as healthy as possible and to keep the immune system in tip-top shape. That way, if you do become exposed to the virus, you will have a much easier time fighting it off.
Chocolate For Health
Even in pre-pandemic days, we often discussed the health benefits of chocolate, especially during flu season. Chocolate has been widely studied and dark chocolate especially has been shown to provide iron, magnesium and other necessary minerals, is high in antioxidants, and can help improve heart health.
So let’s take a closer look at chocolate, the immune system, and a person’s overall health.
(We must note that this is not medical advice and we are not claiming to prevent or cure COVID-19, or anything of the sort! We simply want to talk about some of the ways chocolate is good for you.)
A Brief History
Humans have consumed chocolate for thousands of years, and its current form came into existence not that long ago.
The original chocolate recipe can be traced back to Mexico at least 4,000 years ago when the cacao fruit was harvested from trees. Each cacao pod contains about 40 beans (fruits), which are then dried and roasted to create cocoa beans.
For a few millennia, chocolate was consumed this way, processed into the thick dark, bitter liquids, sometimes mixed with other spices and sweeteners. Chocolate’s power was recognized early on and it was often used during ceremonies.
It wasn’t until the 1800s that chocolate became the prototype of the sweet candy bars that we know today. In the last couple of decades, dark chocolate has also enjoyed a resurgence, with people gravitating toward the bitter end of the spectrum rather than the sweeter milk chocolate we most commonly find in stores.
Since chocolate has been around for so long, it is no surprise that it has undergone countless studies on its benefits for human health.
It is widely accepted that dark chocolate is much better for a person than milk chocolate, the latter of which has a high sugar content and few health benefits. Dark chocolate, on the other hand, is a special treat in the world today. It’s not often that decadent treats are guilt-free!
Dark Chocolate vs. Milk Chocolate
There will always be people firmly on each side of the milk vs. dark chocolate divide in terms of flavour, but when it comes to health benefits there is one true winner.
When looking at dark chocolate, you will usually be faced with a range of options that are marked by a percentage sign — this tells you the cocoa content. When it comes to health benefits, the higher that number, the better. Look for dark chocolate that has at least 70% cocoa content, but do be prepared for the bitter flavour.
Why is Dark Chocolate So Good For a Person?
Well, one reason is that dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which act as an antioxidant. These wonderful agents protecting the body against toxins that enter our systems either through the environment (like pollution) or through the foods we eat (ie. topical chemicals).
The flavonoids/antioxidants keep your heart healthy by protecting it from things that can lead to heart disease. To do this, flavonoids have been found to:
- Relax and lower blood pressure
- Help lower and control cholesterol
- Balance hormones in the body, especially important for women who experience a monthly cycle of hormone fluctuations
- Serve as an antidepressant
Antioxidants are also found to seek out harmful cancer-causing biological waste, called free radicals, and eliminate them.
Cocoa and the Flu
It is now widely accepted that the coronavirus is not simply just the severe flu. Scientists and researchers are still seeking to understand it and will be for a long time to come.
But what we do know is that the healthier a person is, the stronger their immune system is, the better the health outcomes a person will have, no matter what a person is facing.
A 2015 study titled Anti-influenza Virus Effects of Cocoa suggests that “cocoa can provide stronger protection against influenza virus infection.” It goes on to say, “cocoa contains biologically active ingredients that have broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity, which includes an inhibitory effect on influenza virus infection.”
The conclusion of that study states that “drinking cocoa activates natural immunity and enhances vaccination-induced immune response, providing stronger protection against influenza virus infection and disease onset.”
Optimal health is the result of many factors: exercise, diet, sleep, genetics, access to medicine, education, poverty, and the list goes on. The more health is studied, the more complex the intersections become. There are no easy answers.
But what we do know is that the more effort we put into our health, the more it pays off. But it doesn’t all have to be a struggle. You can enjoy and savour a square or two of dark chocolate each day and relax knowing that you are doing something great for your body.
Totally Chocolate has a range of delicious, dark chocolate that you can personalize for someone special or for a treat for yourself. Treating yourself to a high-quality treat, or gifting customized chocolate to a friend or family member, is a great way to just enjoy life. And sometimes that is the best thing we can do for our health.