A Healthy Indulgence: The Potential Benefits of Eating Dark Chocolate

February 15, 2013

Finally—something that’s both indulgent and might also be good for you! Studies show that dark chocolate has some potential health benefits due to its antioxidant ingredients.

Dark chocolate contains a type of antioxidant called polyphenol, which has been found to protect against heart disease. Polyphenols can inhibit oxidation of the LDL “bad” cholesterol, a factor in coronary heart disease. It can also inhibit the clumping of blood platelets that can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, a disease where plaque builds up in the arteries, which could lead to strokes or heart attacks. Besides dark chocolate’s source of polyphenols, according to a Cochrane review of the medical literature, dark chocolate and cocoa also has a rich source of antioxidants known as flavanols (also found in many fruits and vegetables like berries, oranges, legumes, onions) which may help bring blood pressure down a few points.

Dark chocolate may have some potential effects on the human mood because it contains phenethylamine, which triggers the release of endorphins that are associated with pleasure. And if that wasn’t enough, dark chocolate appears to boost the brain levels of serotonin, which can have mood-elevating effects.

Dark chocolate seems to be healthier than its milk and white chocolate counterparts because it contains less added sugar. Excess sugar consumption can affect chances of obesity and the development of type 2 diabetes. It’s easy to figure out how much added sugar your favorite chocolate contains—just read the label that states the amount of cocoa in that piece of chocolate. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the less sugar is added. Another advantage of eating dark chocolate is that (even though you may be tempted) you don’t have to consume a large amount of it to reap its potential health benefits. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, moderation is important, and adding just a half an ounce (2-3 pieces) of dark chocolate to your daily diet may allow you to enjoy some of its health benefits. One important thing to keep in mind that many of the studies focusing on the benefits of chocolate are not definitive at this point, but do show some promising findings.

Although the cost of dark chocolate can vary depending on brands and where it is manufactured, there are some ways to make this indulgence more cost-effective. One way is to buy it in bulk and split the chocolate—and more importantly, the costs—with your health-conscious friends. Or, purchase it from the manufacturer online—but before you do, make sure to “like” them on Facebook and “follow” them on Twitter. Retailers often make coupons and special discounts or offers available to their fans on social media. Another money-saving tip is to buy chocolate in November (after Halloween), January (after Christmas), and February (after Valentine’s Day). You can often purchase the chocolate for 75-90% off after these holidays. However you choose to obtain dark chocolate, and wherever you purchase it, we hope you enjoy taking advantage of its potentially healthy benefits!

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Kicked Off your Parent’s Health Plan? Check Out These Options

February 14, 2013

Are you a young adult who is covered under your parent’s health insurance plan? If you’re among the millions who are, you’ll need to find new coverage when you turn 26, according to a recent story in MSN Money in which Health Advocate was used as an expert source. To view the full story, click here.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act allows a dependent to stay on a parent’s health plan up to age 26. Whether the coverage ends on your birthday, or at the end of the policy year, depends on the plan. If you are now 26 or approaching your 26th birthday, you will need to look into other health insurance options. It’s important to plan ahead instead of waiting until the last minute.

Health Advocate provides the following tips:  

  • Enroll in your employer’s plan. If you have a job that offers health insurance, talk to your benefits administrator and learn how to enroll. Typically, you would have to wait until the open enrollment period to sign up for health insurance, but under federal law you can sign up outside of the open enrollment period if you’ve lost coverage on a parent’s plan.
  • Spouse coverage. If you have a spouse or domestic partner who has employer-based health insurance, see if you qualify for coverage on his or her plan.
  • Think about COBRA. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) is a type of insurance for people who lose employer-sponsored health insurance because of unemployment, divorce, death of a spouse, or loss of eligibility for coverage as a dependent. Under COBRA, you can continue to receive health insurance benefits under your parent’s plan for up to 36 months.
  • Shop around. Look for an individual policy. You might find affordable coverage if you work with an independent insurance broker or agent. Figure out the type of healthcare you will need. If you are relatively healthy, you might not need a plan with all the bells and whistles. Keep in mind that the higher the deductible means a lower premium, but more out-of-pocket costs.  
  • Check out Medicaid.  If you are a low-income individual or family, look into federal and state programs.

To learn more about how to find affordable healthcare coverage, check out The Healthcare Survival Guide: Cost-Saving Options for the Suddenly Unemployed and Anyone Else Who Wants to Save Money. The book, written by Health Advocate cofounders Martin Rosen and Abbie Leibowitz, M.D., contains dozens of resources to help find affordable healthcare coverage and health services for anyone who has lost their employer-paid healthcare — or who simply wants to reduce healthcare costs. You can download the book for free at www.HealthcareSurvivalGuide.com.