Imagine a world in which chocolate and coffee are considered health foods. While nutritionist won't go that far, research indicates that dark chocolate and coffee offer many health benefits. Eating chocolate-covered espresso beans can lower your risk of disease if you eat them in moderation.
Chocolate and coffee contain a type of antioxidant called flavonols. Antioxidants inhibit oxidation to provide protection to your body's cells from free radicals. Your body develops free radicals through normal body processes like breathing or from environmental factors, such as cigarette smoke. In the distant past, the body provided its own protection, but today, stress and environmental contaminants require that you eat a diet rich in antioxidants to guard against free radicals.
Cell damage is one culprit in heart disease. Flavenols provide protection to the cells, thereby reducing your risk of vascular ailments. Dark chocolate may lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, reducing your risk of hypertension and bad cholesterol, both of which can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. One to 3 cups of coffee a day may lower your risk of heart disease.
It may seem counterintuitive that a sugary treat would reduce your risk of diabetes, but chocolate and coffee may help with blood sugar regulation. Dark chocolate can speed your body's processing of blood sugar. An analysis of studies published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association" found that 4 to 6 cups of coffee a day reduced diabetes risk by 28 percent and more than 6 cups led to a 35-percent reduced risk.
While chocolate-covered espresso beans offer health benefits, it doesn't mean they are a health food; they do have potentially harmful effects. The best results come from dark chocolate that has 65 percent cocoa or more. Chocolate with less than 65 percent cocoa has too much sugar and fat and too few flavonols. Coffee and chocolate contain caffeine, which can increase your heart rate and blood pressure.
- Cleveland Clinic: Heart-Health Benefits of Chocolate Unveiled
- Lethbridge Undergraduate Research Journal: A Review of Potential Health Benefits of Flavonoids
- MayoClinic.com: Can Chocolate Be Good for My Health?
- HeatlhCastle.com: Health Benefits of Chocolate?
- New York Times: Coffee as a Health Drink? Studies Find Some Benefits
- Journal of the American Medical Association: Coffee Consumption and Risk of Type 2 DiabetesA Systematic Review
- Science News: Can Chocolate Fight Diabetes, Too?
- Harvard Health Publications: Coffee Health Risks
Leslie Truex has been telecommuting and freelancing since 1994. She wrote the "The Work-At-Home Success Bible" and is a career/business and writing instructor at Piedmont Virginia Community College. Truex has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Willamette University and a Master of Social Work from California State University-Sacramento. She has been an Aerobics and Fitness Association of America certified fitness instructor since 2001.