Everyone loves chocolate

But even if you are one of the very few people who doesn’t like chocolate, the article below points out all the health benefits of dark chocolate and it will make you fall in love with cocoa!

… and it’s healthy?

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There is considerable evidence that cocoa can provide powerful health benefits, being especially protective against cardiovascular disease.

But of course, this doesn’t mean people should go all out and consume lots of chocolate every day. It is still loaded with calories and easy to overeat on.

Maybe have a square or two after dinner and try to really savor them.

Although, more research needs to be done, recent studies suggest eight possible health benefits of dark chocolate and cocoa.

1. Dark chocolate is a powerful source of antioxidants

Dark chocolate is loaded with nutrients that can positively affect your health.

Made from the seed of the cocoa tree, it is one of the best sources of antioxidants (catechins and procyanidins) on the planet. Antioxidants help free your body of free radicals, which cause oxidative damage to cells, are implicated in the ageing process and may be a cause of cancer.

dark chocolate benefits_52. Dark chocolate is full of vitamins and minerals

Dark chocolate also contains a number of vitamins and minerals that can support your health.

It is a good source of vitamins B1, B2, B3, folate, iron, potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese, phosphorous and zinc.

Along with vitamins and minerals, dark chocolate also contains healthy fats.

Cocoa butter, the fatty part of cocoa beans, is the unsaturated type that’s beneficial for your heart and cholesterol levels. But even the saturated fat in dark chocolate isn’t so bad for you.

Dark chocolate contains stearic acid, a saturated fat that may have a neutral effect on blood cholesterol levels.

3. Dark Chocolate is good for your heart

Dark chocolate may even go as far as protecting against heart attack and stroke.

A large Australian study from 2012 found that daily consumption of dark chocolate could prevent major cardiovascular events in people with risk factors for heart disease.

Additionally, a German study published in 2010 tracked 20,000 people over eight years and found that those who ate one square of chocolate a day had 39 percent less chance of stroke and heart attack.

4. Dark chocolate reduces cholesterol

Consumption of cocoa has been shown to reduce levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise levels of good cholesterol (HDL), potentially lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to studies published in the Journal of Nutrition and Journal of Hypertension.

dark chocolate benefits_35. Dark chocolate may decrease blood pressure and increase insulin sensitivity

Beyond heart health, studies show that eating a small amount of dark chocolate two or three times each week can help lower your blood pressure.

Dark chocolate may also protect against diabetes.

Some studies have shown that the antioxidants in dark chocolate may help the body use its insulin more efficiently to control blood sugar.

6. Dark chocolate may improve arterial blood flow

Dark chocolate improves blood flow and may help prevent the formation of blood clots according to a research from the Journal of Circulation of the American Heart Association.

Moreover, eating dark chocolate may also prevent arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

7. Dark chocolate is good for your brain

Have a big meeting, test or dinner with the in-laws?

Eating dark chocolate can give your brain a short-term boost—increasing your alertness—for two to three hours, a University of Nottingham study found.

Additionally, cocoa contains stimulant substances like caffeine and theobromine.

This may be a key reason cocoa can improve brain function in the short term.

Another study of healthy volunteers also showed that 5 days of consuming high-flavanol cocoa improved blood flow to the brain, which could aid alertness and cognition.

Moreover, cocoa may significantly improve cognitive function in elderly people with mental impairment. It also improves verbal fluency and several risk factors for disease.

dark chocolate benefits_68. Dark chocolate is an energy booster

The good news isn’t over yet. Dark chocolate also contains several chemical compounds that have a positive effect on your mood.

Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), the same chemical your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love.

PEA encourages your brain to release endorphins, so eating dark chocolate will make you feel happier.

The 70% rule

To get all of these health benefits, you have to choose the right kind!

Dark chocolates often contain some sugar, but the amounts are usually small and the darker the chocolate, the less sugar it will contain.

A good rule of thumb is to look for at least 70 percent cocoa solids, which means the chocolate will have a slightly bitter taste. Cocoa solids contain the desirable flavanols responsible for heart health protection, so they should hold the number-one spot on the ingredients list.

You also want to avoid dark chocolates that have added milk fat or hydrogenated vegetable oils – both of which are saturated fats.

Once you’ve found a dark chocolate that fits this bill, go for it! One of the most common food cravings I see from my clients is chocolate.

If you can control your consumption of dark chocolate – aim for about 100 calories or less per day – you should feel good about enjoying this antioxidant-rich, potentially heart-protective sweet.

Connect with Expert Yvoni Kyriakidou

References:

1. Baba, S., Natsume, M., Yasuda, A., Nakamura, Y., Tamura, T., Osakabe, N., Kanegae, M. and Kondo, K. (2007). Plasma LDL and HDL cholesterol and oxidized LDL concentrations are altered in normo- and hypercholesterolemic humans after intake of different levels of cocoa powder. Journal of Nutrition, 137, (6), pp.1436-1241.

2. Corti, R., Flammer, A.J., Hollenberg, N.K. and Luscher, T.F. (2009). Cocoa and cardiovascular health. Circulation, 119, pp.1433-1441.

3. Desideri, G., Kwik-Uribe, C., Grassi, D., Necozione, S., Ghiadoni, L., Mastroiacovo, D., Raffaele, A. Ferri, L., Bocale, R., Lechiara, M.C., Marini, C. and Ferri, C. (2012). Benefits in cognitive function, blood pressure and insulin resistance through cocoa flavanol consumption in elderly subjects with mild cognitive impairment. Hypertension, 60, pp.794-801.

4. Francis, S.T., Head, K., Morris, P.G. and MacDonald I.A. (2006). The effect of flavanol-rich cocoa on the fMRI response to a cognitive task in healthy young people. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol, 47, (2), pp.215-220.

5. Grassi, D., Necozione, S., Lippi, C., Crose, G., Valeri, L., Pasqualetti, P., Desideri, G. Blumberg, J.B. and Ferri, C. (2005). Cocoa reduces blood pressure and insulin resistance and improves endothelium-dependent vasodilation in hypertensives. Hypertension, 46, pp.398-405.

6. Smit, H.J., Gaffan, E.A. and Rogers, P.J. (2004). Methylxanthines are the psycho-pharmacologically active constituents of chocolate. Psychopharmacology, 176, (3), pp.412-419.

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