It sounds like a dream come true. After hearing, day after day, that just about everything is bad for you, finally a tasty treat is given a thumbs up. And it's chocolate, no less!
A recent study in the Journal of Physiology suggests that cocoa compounds can make you stronger. Researchers at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) gave mice two doses a day for 14 days of a chocolate flavonoid called epicatechin, and then put them on treadmills (mice love those wheels) to see if the chocolate could improve their athletic performance. The chocoholic mice had 30% more leg muscle capillary density (which delivers more oxygen to muscle), and 50% more muscle protein (which makes muscle cells more efficient) than the mice that were denied the cocoa treats. That means the chocolate-munching mice had more resistance to fatigue and greater muscle power.
This isn't the first study that has shown chocolate, in moderation, is good for you. Other research has revealed that dark chocolate can lower blood pressure, reduce the impact of stress and make arteries more flexible. But you have to remember that an average one ounce serving is about 170 calories, 34% of your daily saturated fat limit. (And of course, if you are a person with diabetes, your situation is different).
If you're taking a day hike, going cycling or out for a run, a few little chocolate treats might be just the reinforcement you need. Not only will they most likely make the exercise a little easier, but they could serve as a perfect reward, inspiring you to keep your exercise regimen going.
- Barbara Bronson Gray, RN, MN
- Barbara Bronson Gray is an award-winning writer and a nationally recognized health expert. She's a regular contributor to HealthDay and her writing appears in U.S. News & World Report, WebMD, Health.com, MSN Healthy Living, Center for Advancing Health and a wide range of other publications and websites. Barbara has worked in hospitals, as a nurse and as an administrator, led a major healthcare magazine, created and managed a website for WebMD, and served as a leader of global communications for Amgen, the world's largest biotech company. She continues to write and speak about healthcare and has a communications consultancy. Follow her on Twitter: @bbgrayrn.