No matter your age, there’s always room for more chocolate in your life. That’s the recommendation of Accredited Home Care, which works with plenty of clients who have found ways to eat better but still enjoy the occasional sweet treat now and then.
Yes, getting older definitely can bring some disadvantages, at least from a dietary standpoint. As we age, we often are encouraged to cut back on things like salts, fats and sugars, and have smaller, better breakfasts instead of the massive morning feasts we’ve experienced and probably enjoyed in the past.
Likewise, products with artificial sugars are also discouraged for general health reasons, especially corn sugars and high-fructose corn syrups. These artificial sweeteners can do all sorts of damaging things to organs such as the pancreas, and could further hurt people already in weak health.
But there seems to be a big exception for those with big sweet tooths: chocolate can offer proven health benefits.
Yes, you heard right, something that most kids crave and many grown-ups also crave may actually boost your health. At least that’s what’s indicated by a variety of studies conducted in the last few years. While none of them advocate going crazy and scarfing down candy bar after candy bar and washing the whole mess down with a bottle of chocolate syrup, (moderation!) many do conclude that a few squares of a chocolate bar, especially something darker vs. something milkier, can aid your overall wellness efforts. Generally, the higher the cocoa content – usually at least 70 percent — the higher the possible health value.
Various studies have linked ingredients in dark chocolate, such as flavanols, to improved cardiovascular health and an overall stronger immune system. It is said to help short-term and long-term memory, and decrease blood pressure. It includes various helpful minerals, including iron, potassium, selenium and zinc. It reduces cholesterol, can protect the skin from damage and dryness, and is even rumored to defend the body against malaria.
An active natural ingredient in most chocolates is phenyletylamine, or PEA, which is considered an endorphin that helps with pain relief and creates a generally positive feeling in the brain and body. It’s the same compound that’s produced during times of great pleasure, such as falling in love.
Depending on who is making the list, chocolate sometimes is ranked as an official “superfood,” a category of natural foods that provide extra natural goodness, such as antioxidants, healing properties and overall nutrition. Vegetables like kale are always on the list, as are various berries and nuts.
For the last decade, experts have been going back and forth whether chocolate truly deserves a permanent place on this elite list of food that’s good and also good for you. The jury may still be out on this, but publications like Popular Science still suggest a middle ground: while chocolate may not officially be a ‘Super’ superfood, it does have some ingredients that can be appealing. But there are also some risks of getting carried away with the indulgence. So perhaps think of it as more of an occasional pleasant treat rather than an essential part of every balanced meal, like your leafy greens.
Value to seniors
Some of the studies into chocolate’s possible effectiveness might be of interest to older populations. Some say there is a link between regular chocolate and better memory and mood, which are both two areas that are of greater concern to seniors.
Memory loss and poor moods can signal mental or physical health changes and decline, or even the onset of dementia. At the same time, any product that is rumored to reduce or remove these health challenges and act as a natural anti-depressant is definitely worth looking into.
Part of the appeal is how chocolate functions medically. Though it acts like a food when consumed by going right to the stomach, some of the chemicals contained in chocolate go right to the brain, so it actually acts more like something pharmaceutical that triggers positive feelings.
Having one square of chocolate a day is also said to help the body’s defenses regularly by removing free radicals from the blood. These can build up in your blood over time and cause toxins and possible cellular damage.
Even a little bit of chocolate, such as flakes or powder, can spice up bland food if someone is not happy about being on limited or restricted diet.
In a home health care situation, nurses and other personnel likely will be favorable to patients using small amounts of a food product that is said to improve mood, memory and other parts of their lives, especially if they’ve previously checked with their doctor/primary provider if chocolate can be part of their diet.
Their providers also might also be interested in hearing observations from the nurses or other home health care associates, such as if there has been some changes in their health due to chocolate.
While nutrition fans may reflexively say that chocolate belongs squarely in the “bad food/bad dessert” category, more medical personnel – and maybe even more patients – are exploring ways to utilize its benefits. For more info visit Accredited Home Care.