Okay, I’m betting most of you reading that headline are thinking, Chocolate Fights UV Damage? Yeah, right. What’s the catch? Well, surprise. It turns out there isn’t one. New research shows that the powerful plant nutrients in dark cocoa do more than taste good. They actually protect your overall health and offer particular benefits to your skin. So, before you spend a few hours in the sun, read this first…
Dark Chocolate Doubles As a Powerful Skin Protectant
Imagine being able to fight sunburn and UV skin damage just by drinking a daily cool chocolate smoothie, or hot cocoa? And how about these additional anti-aging skin benefits:
1. Scaliness reduced by 42%: As skin gets older, with hormone shifts, it gets drier and flakier.
2. Roughness reduced by 30%: Older skin doesn’t retain moisture well and can develop a rough texture.
3. Moisture increase of 13%: Older skin is prone to moisture loss from decreased collagen and the inability to retain water well.
4. Skin density and thickness increased by 11 and 16% respectively: This is a major anti-aging skin benefit. Loss of skin thickness contributes to development of lines, sags, and folds.
These were all the findings of a recent study out of Heinrich-Heine University in Germany in which 2 groups of women, ages 18-65, were followed. The first group drank 1/2 cup of cocoa with 329 mg of high-percentage cacao for 12 weeks. The other group only consumed 27 mg. These skin benefits were only achieved in the group who drank the 329 mg cocoa.
First, let me be clear about the cocoa we’re talking about. This is the high-percentage cacao found in products like Hershey’s baking cocoa (100%), or the dark chocolate bars found in health food stores (70% or more). You can find Hershey’s baking cocoa in the baking items aisle in your grocery store. You can also reap the health benefits of cocoa taking it as an extract in capsules. You can find these in health food stores or online. Look for at least a 70% level of cacao. The higher the percentage, the stronger the health benefits.
So, what is it about dark chocolate/cocoa that makes it such a powerful skin, and overall, health nutrient? Here are 2 of its most important health properties:
1. Flavonoids. Pure cacao contains 2 powerful flavonoids, epicatechin and catechin, the same ones found in green tea. Research over the last decade, or so, have proved these 2 nutrients to be nature’s best disease fighters. They are the reason that green tea has scored high research points for fighting and preventing disease.
These important flavonoids are found in many plants like green tea, cacao bean, tomato, pomegranate and other fruits. They are powerful antioxidants that have been shown to fight heart disease and cancer. But it wasn’t until recently that researchers realized both the anti-aging and sunscreen benefit that cocoa’s flavonoids offer.
It was found that these flavonoids also absorb UV light. Chronic exposure to UV light contributes to lowered immunity, accelerates skin aging and promotes cancer. Flavnoids work to combat the damage that exposure to UV light causes. They have a powerful anti-inflammatory effect that turns off harmful UV-induced chemical changes at the skin’s cellular level.
The participants who drank the high-flavonoid content cocoa had 15% less skin reddening at 6 weeks and 25% less at 12 weeks. Those who drank the low flavonoid content had no reduction in reddening.
2. Nitrous oxide. Another important property of cocoa is its nitrous oxide stimulating effect. Nitrous oxide causes blood vessels to open up wider which boosts increased blood flow. It’s believed that this property of cocoa is what lowers risk for heart attack and stroke. But now researchers found that cocoa increases blood flow by 50% to a skin depth of 1 mm and about 37.5% to a depth of 7-8 mm. The researchers concluded that the increased blood flow to the skin was behind the increase in density, moisture, and improved skin texture.
So, how can you duplicate these cocoa benefit results for yourself? The German study used 100 grams of high-percentage cacao cocoa. That’s about 3.5 ounces. But, you don’t need that much to reap cocoa’s powerful nutrients. A few easy ways include:
A. Make hot cocoa out of a few tablespoons in a big mug of milk or water. It can serve as a replacement for your afternoon coffee or your before bedtime treat. It’s what I do everyday to protect my skin, heart and brain health. I put 3 tablespoons of 100% cacao Hershey’s Baking Cocoa into a big mug of boiling water. I add a little half and half cream, and a little stevia to sweeten. I may even spritz a little canned whipped cream and cinnamon on top. Then, I enjoy! Each mug contains 15 grams of cocoa. So, taken 2-3 times a day can give you 30-45 grams of cocoa flavonoids a day. Plus, each tablespoon has 2 grams of fiber, and no sugar!
B. Add a few tablespoons cocoa powder to your protein power shake.
C. Make a healthy cocoa “paste” with coconut oil, sweetened with stevia, to dip strawberries or apple slices in.
In addition, there are a few commercial products out there like CocoVia bars that can be found in most grocery stores. EstheChoc is a high-end cocoa product out of Great Britain aimed at skin care. Makers of EstheChoc claim it can turn back the look of your skin to that of a 20-30 year-old!
Both products contain high-percentage cacao dark chocolate, but EstheChoc also contains astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant. You can find EstheChoc online or some high end beauty retailers. If you really don’t like the taste of dark chocolate/cocoa, you can also buy cocoa extract capsules.
Whatever way you decide to add more high flavonol cocoa to your diet, you’ll be fighting skin aging, as well as protecting your skin, heart and brain health.