Chocolate for Fertility. Does it help? Probably!
Happy National Chocolate Day!
You’ve probably heard that chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is good for you. You may have even used that idea to justify having that extra serving of chocolate! Am I right?
I have news for you. Some good, some bad. It’s true–chocolate does have health benefits. The bad news: not all chocolate is created equal. White chocolate hardly qualifies as chocolate at all and milk chocolate has much less of the health-boosting flavonols as dark chocolate.
Chocolate for Fertility: Benefits Deconstructed
Chocolate—actually the cocoa that’s in it—contains flavonoids (also called flavonols), bioactive components that help lots of things in your body. For example blood pressure, platelet aggregation and insulin resistance have all shown improvement after consistently eating a certain amount of flavonoids from chocolate.
- In general, what’s good for your blood pressure, artery health and blood sugar are also good for fertility. Why? Blood flow is super important, because it carries oxygen and other nutrients around the body and the brain. When blood flow is impeded, such as with hypertension, it can cause erectile dysfunction (ED) (which of course is super BAD for fertility). It’s estimated that up to 60% of men with high blood pressure also have ED. High blood sugar levels in the body cause inflammation and oxidative stress, which are both bad for fertility.
- Chocolate boosts antioxidant levels in the blood. An antioxidant-rich diet fuels fertility for both men and women.
Notice that earlier I didn’t say these health benefits are from eating a certain amount of chocolate. That’s because the amount of flavonols in chocolate vary widely and depend on the processing of the cocoa beans. Fermenting, roasting and “dutching” all decrease the amount of flavonoids in chocolate. See buying tips below to choose chocolate with the most flavonoids.#Chocolate for #fertility? Yes! Dark chocolate and cocoa are the best choices. bit.ly/2eZVLR2… Click To Tweet
OK, who hasn’t grabbed a chocolate kiss–or a whole bar–when under stress? Whether from PMS, a looming deadline or unruly children, you’ve probably found stress relief in the creamy goodness of chocolate! We know that sometimes trying to get pregnant can be stressful. And stress isn’t good for fertility. That’s why eating a little chocolate for fertility may go a long way.
- Research on the exact mechanism as to why eating chocolate makes us feel better is a bit sketchy. Some think it’s due to the immediate sensory pleasure of eating chocolate and the emotional love affair we have with chocolate. The positive effect happens immediately–and last for about 3 minutes! So reports a study in the journal Appetite, which summarized that the taste and mouth feel of the chocolate was mostly likely responsible for it’s effect on happiness. (That’s why my motto is: buy the best chocolate you can afford and eat in moderation!)
- For your brain to function at it’s best, it’s got to have good blood flow to it, to allow oxygen and energy in the form of glucose to get there. The polyphenols in cocoa (also found in wine, grape seeds, berries, tea, tomatoes and soy), have been shown to increase blood flow to the brain. Perhaps this is why research studies show cognitive benefits from eating flavonoids from cocoa. One study showed that for people reporting high anxiety, eating a little over one ounce of dark chocolate a day for a few weeks significantly improved physical measures of stress.
How Much is enough? Moderation, Please!
Most of the studies on eating chocolate mentioned the downside–the calories. Because if you’re using the research to justify eating lots of high fat chocolate, the extra calories and possible weight gain could effectively cancel out the other health benefits! However, the flavonols and antixodants are found in the nonfat portion of the cocoa bean, so it is possible to get the health benefits without excessive calories by using flavonol rich cocoa in lowfat recipes or small amounts of flavonol-rich dark chocolate..
Observational studies show health benefits with as little as 1/3 of an ounce of chocolate a day or 2 g of cocoa a day. Randomized control trials have used from 1 oz to 3 oz of dark chocolate a day. In terms of flavonol content, studies showing benefit used cocoa or chocolate containing anywhere from 300 mg to 750 mg of total flavonols a day.
They say the “dose makes the poison”…and in the case of chocolate, the right dose also provides the most health benefits. Right now there is really no way to tell how much flavonoids are in a product, unless it’s listed on the label–and that is totally voluntary.
- Know what has the most flavonols and antioxidants. In descending order: Cocoa, baking chocolate and 70% dark chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate chips.
- Buy dark chocolate. it’s estimated to have 5 times the polyphenol content of milk chocolate.
- Buy cocoa that is not alkalized or “Dutch”.
- Consider a cocoa extract supplement like CocoaVia, which has 350 mg of cocoa flavonols per serving. However it is not recommended if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.If you are pregnant consider Goodness Knows Snack Squares, which are made with fruits, nuts and dark chocolate. They boast 100 mg of flavonols in each 150 calorie serving.
P.S. Chocolate is Good for Your Skin and Lips!
In my own effort to use cleaner beauty products, I’ve decided that if the main ingredient for my skin is something I can eat, that’s a good thing! Coconut oil is big right now. But cocoa butter has been in lotions and creams long before coconut oil! I recently picked up a free sample of Nativas Naturals Cacao Lip Balm. If the ingredients don’t woo you, the smell and moisturizing effects of the cocoa butter will! It smells and looks like chocolate. I don’t guarantee that it will curb your chocolate cravings, but your lips will feel great!
Just in case you need some chocolate inspiration, my next blog post has recipes to help curb your cocoa cravings.
Want more information about how lifestyle and diet affects fertility? Check out my other posts on the topic:
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