People have been searching for the secret to a longer life for a very long time. There are plenty of ideas floating around about what habits might lead to a longer life expectancy, some of which are surprising. While there may be no fountain of youth, people have discovered some ways to increase their odds of living longer.
Some older people attribute their continued health to a moderate love of chocolate. Indeed, you may have heard someone mention eating chocolate regularly can make you live longer. In addition to things like optimism and social relationships, chocolate seems to play a role in helping people enjoy a longer lifespan.
Scientists, too, seem to back the notion that chocolate can be good for you. In addition to adopting healthy habits like exercise and seeking preventive care, some scientists suggest eating chocolate may be a healthy habit in promoting a longer life.
Do People Who Eat Chocolate Live Longer?
People are lining up to testify about the health benefits of chocolate — and not just because it’s delicious. Both scientists and individuals have noticed a correlation between chocolate consumption and long life, and they’re eager to share their discovery.
One believer in the power of chocolate, 102-year-old Eunice Modlin, attributed her long life partly to the two pieces of chocolate she consumed each day. While Modlin lived an overwhelmingly healthy life in other ways as well, her habitual chocolate consumption stood out.
Another woman who is 116 years old has been declared Europe’s oldest living person as of December 2017. Her secret? Dark chocolate, of course.
Giuseppina Projetto, or the “Nonna of Italy,” does not go one day without it. Her daughter-in-law even mentions that “she chews badly, but for the chocolate at the end of the meal, she always finds a solution.” She attributes chocolate and a positive attitude to her long life.
Like both Modlin and Projetto, many other people claim to have benefited from regular chocolate consumption. Of course, it is likely these people limited the chocolate they ate to avoid excessive sugar and calorie intake, which would explain why subsisting entirely on chocolate is still a bad idea. However, the type of chocolate people choose might have just as much to do with its health benefits as how much they eat and when.
Modlin notably enjoyed dark chocolate, which has very different properties from other types. Dark chocolate has a higher concentration of cacao, the bean from which chocolate is made. Cacao, not the chocolate itself, is what holds potential benefits. This food has benefited Modlin as well as numerous people before her, and it has the potential to benefit you, too.
What Are the Benefits of Cacao?
Most of the chocolate bars you might pick up at the supermarket contain a lot more besides pure cacao. Added sugar and extra inclusions like caramel and nuts make the average chocolate treat high in calories and fat and subsequently unhealthy if you eat them in excess.
However, cacao nibs come with many health benefits and few drawbacks. In its unprocessed form, cacao has a sharp taste quite different from the chocolate you’re probably familiar with, but it comes packed with nutritional benefits.
Cacao contains tons of antioxidants called flavanols. Like other antioxidants, those in cacao absorb free radicals, which your cells naturally produce, and which can wreak havoc on the body if left unchecked. By preventing free radicals from bonding with other molecules in your body, antioxidants keep you healthy. Furthermore, some scientists suggest free radicals may play a role in aging. That’s why antioxidants such as those in cacao could help you live longer.
In addition to slowing aging, scientists have suggested the antioxidants in cacao may lower the risk of diabetes and protect against nerve damage, as well as raise mood, lower stress and inflammation and improve immunity. If all that isn’t enough, cacao is also good for heart health. All these factors contribute to longer, healthier and happier lifespans.
It is clear cacao can benefit health. But how should you consume it? The important thing to remember is that the more unprocessed the chocolate, the more benefits of cacao you get. If you’re interested in improving your health with this superfood, consider incorporating cacao as an ingredient in desserts instead of chocolate. Fudge using cacao, for example, can satisfy a sweet tooth without the extra sugar.
If you want the benefits of cacao in a regular piece of chocolate, however, aim for the highest concentration of cacao available. A dark chocolate containing 70 percent cacao or higher is ideal if you’re hoping to reap the life-extending benefits of chocolate’s most essential ingredient.
Should You Rely on Cacao to Extend Your Life?
Though cacao and its products can lead to better health outcomes, chocolate consumption is obviously not the only factor in determining life expectancy — other habits contribute to aging as well. Experts recommend you limit your chocolate consumption to small amounts to avoid excessive sugar intake and its associated negative health effects. However, a small piece or two every day won’t hurt.
In addition to eating chocolate, Modlin ate fresh vegetables from her garden and avoided alcohol. Though long lives seem to run in her family, you can still take a tip from her and do something to improve your life expectancy, even if it’s just eating a little something sweet.