The Power Behind the Bittersweet Treat That Melts Away Your Stress and Improves Libido
Who would have thought that there are certain kinds of food that aren’t only appetizing but also boost your appetite for sex?
That is precisely the case with chocolate, more specifically dark chocolate.
Chocolates do not only serve as desserts and comfort food. Research has shown that eating this bitter and sweet flavored food is beneficial for the body in many ways. Fortunately, muscle gain and improved sex life are just the beginning of its many benefits.
The compound responsible for these effects is called epicatechin. Epicatechin is present in many foods and drinks like blackberries and green tea but it is higest concentrated in dark cocoa and dark chocolate.
Epicatechin is a naturally occurring flavonol compound similar to the antioxidants in green tea. Flavonols fall under the phytochemicals group called flavonoids. Flavonols are known to offer various health benefits including a reduction in risk of acquiring chronic diseases as well as enhancing blood flow which in turn boosts several bodily functions including those of your reproductive system.
What Makes Epicatechin So Special?
Listed below are the most common benefits that one can get from eating chocolate due to its epicatechin content.
Increases Testosterone Levels
Catechins, the flavonol group of compounds that also epicatechin belongs to, can increase the levels of testosterone in the body. A crucial hormone for male fertility. This also increases estrogen in women since it is produced by conversion from testosterone. Testosterone is also important for libido in women.
When epicatechin is taken daily in small dosages, it can stimulate the pituitary gland which can result in an increase in gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). It is LH that triggers the production of testosterone. A boost in testosterone can also lead to better mood and better overall emotional health.
Since chocolate is one of the best sources of flavonoid compounds, consuming it every day is a good way to increase your catechin intake.
Improve Blood Flow (Essential When TTC)
Nitric oxide is a molecule that naturally occurs in the body to help millions of cells communicate through signal transmission. It is also called a vasodilator since it expands the blood vessels to facilitate the flow of blood and nutrients to the muscles and organs of the body.
How Epicatechin Encourages Blood Flow
Epicatechin encourages blood flow by prompting the production of nitric oxide. This can also result in faster muscle growth, recovery from post workout injury, and improved overall endurance.
Because of the improvements in blood flow, the leydig cells are given more nutrients which helps the production of testosterone. Leydig cells are found in the testicles in men and, with the help of the luteinizing hormone, creates testosterone. Of course this increase in blood flow also comes with similar fertility benefits also in women.
Promotes Stronger, Better Erections
The increase of nitric oxide caused by epicatechin does not only result in healthier blood flow and lower blood pressure. It can also result in better and stronger erections, essentially helping to cure erectile dysfunction.
Nitric oxide increases the blood flow to the male reproductive organs for better erections (just like L-Arginine!). Viagra and other medicines for erectile dysfunctions work in a similar way, influencing enzymatic reactions to enhance the production of nitric oxide for better blood flow.
Promotes Muscle Growth
Delicious treats are probably some of the biggest culprits of weight gain and and obesity. Every time that a person goes on a weight reduction diet, sweets and other treats would probably be the first things on the long list of foods to avoid. With chocolate however, that is not the case. Chocolate can actually promote muscle growth while reducing fat in the body, as long as you pick the dark kind with a minimum cacao content of 70%. Milk chocolate contains way too much sugar to be healthy.
One of the reasons that epicatechin is gaining popularity is because of its ability to promote muscle growth. It prevents the development of a protein called myostatin. Myostatin is the bane of bodybuilders and weightlifters precisely because it can hinder the body from putting on more mass.
You can counter the effects of myostatin through another protein that keeps it in check. Follistatin is an activating-binding protein that exhibits the opposite characteristics of myostatin. Epicatechin was reported to promote the production of follistatin while also decreasing myostatin.
Aside from the presence of epicatechin, dark chocolates contain healthy saturated fats and fewer calories as opposed to those with a high milk and sugar content.
Appetite management is one of the key aspects of weight loss. However, suppressing appetite is not that easy. Not many appetite suppressants actually work as they are advertised.
To reduce appetite, the body must first increase its production of ghrelin –the hunger hormone. Ghrelin levels are high when a person has not yet eaten and they will eventually go down after a meal. There is an inverse relationship between appetite and ghrelin levels. Since epicatechin encourages the production of this hunger hormone, eating chocolates can suppress one’s hunger.
A Mood Enhancer – Feel In A Better Mood
Chocolate contains a chemical called phenylethylamine (PEA). It is this chemical that the brain releases every time a person is in love. The production of PEA can increase the levels of endorphins that will make a person happier. Overall, this will increase a person’s mood and is benefical against depression.
Chocolate Can Help You Feel Happy
Chocolate is also good in making those who are pregnant feel happy. Women who find it hard to conceive are reported to have better moods and in a heightened state of wellbeing when they eat chocolate and this can contribute toward them getting pregnant faster.
Dark Chocolate Promotes Libido Even In Women
These mood-altering endorphins also increases women’s libido. A study conducted on women reported that the participants who ate at least one cube of chocolate experienced an increase in their sex drives.
A lot of companies saw the potential of epicatechin as an active ingredient in health supplements that can promote muscle growth, encourage blood flow, increase testosterone level, and appetite suppressant.
Now, there are a variety of epicatechin supplements available on the market which can provide a higher potency than consuming dark chocolate and even be cheaper in the long run. To derive any benefit from epicatechin consumption you need to consume a minimum 50g of 70% cacao dark chocolate per day, making epicatechin supplements cheaper.
It’s also important to know the things that one should consider before buying epicatechin supplements. Time and effort are not the only things that a person can waste with the purchase of the wrong product. Health problems and other side effects can also occur. Before buying a supplement, consider these two factors:
The very first thing that one must consider when choosing whatever supplement is its source. The effectiveness of epicatechin greatly depends on where it came from. It is better to choose supplements with natural sources like green tea and cocoa rather than artificial ones. The way that these sources was cultivated must also be taken into consideration, with organic being the best.
Remember that the dosage is essential for the supplement to have any beneficial effects. It is recommended to choose one that is at least 100mg epicatechin per serving. 50G of cacao powder contains about 50mg of Epicatechin which is the minimum effective dose when eating chocolate.
Hormone balancing is key to faster fertility success and having a healthier and more enjoyable pregnancy. Your hormones will also determine if you are going to dip into post-natal depression or enjoy early motherhood bliss. This article also highlights that epicatechin is a beneficial compound for many people and can be enjoyed in dark chocolate a high cacao content. Chocolate releases feel good hormones and therefore makes you feel happier during stressful times as well as emotionally unstable times.
To help bring harmony to your life, you may want to consider adding epicatechin to your diet. If you do not like chocolate, that’s alright. Try a supplement and you can still derive the benefits without having to endure its bitterness. If you do like chocolate, be mindful not to choose one that has cane sugar, instead opt for no sugar or coconut/date natural sweetness and of course it will need to be organic.
Co-Written With Alex Eriksson
Alex is the founder of Anabolic Health, a men’s health blog dedicated to providing honest and research backed advice for optimal male hormonal health.
Anabolic Health aspires to become a trusted resource where men can come and learn how to fix their hormonal problems naturally, without pharmaceuticals.
Check out his guide on The Ultimate Guide to Manly Cooking or follow him on Twitter or Facebook
Fiona Kacz-Boulton is a Fertility Specialist
(An expert in her field since 2007) and leader in fertility yoga – inspiring people to evolve on their conscious journey to parenthood.
Founder of Awakening Fertility – Harley Street and Clapham, London.
- Huffington Post Fertility Writer
- Fertility Coach
- Fertility Support Group Co-ordinator for Harley Street Fertility Clinic and Infertility Network UK
- Nutrition Counsellor
- Public Speaker
- QiYoga® Founder
- Fertility Yoga Teacher Trainer (RYS 200)
- Fertile Lifestyle Motivator
- Fertility Support Group Facilitator
- Fertility Practitioner Training Co-ordinator
Through her coaching programmes, Fiona helps navigate major transitions to detox your mind (and body) to help you effectively ‘think yourself fertile.’
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Other Topics Worth Reading:
- Low Calorie Fertility Food Suitable for Pregnancy – Read here
- How to Increase Serotonin Levels Whilst Trying to Conceive – Read here
- SuperFoods for Fertility – Read here
- Balancing Yin Yang Energies with a Whole Food Diet – Read here
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