Who doesn’t love chocolate? The good news is that some of these are good for you. While most people have heard that dark chocolate has health benefits, most don’t know what they are or how they affect your body.
The truth is, dark chocolate is one of the best sources of antioxidants. Made from cocoa beans, this sweet treat reduces the risk of heart disease and is full of nutrients, in particular the flavanols.
1. Source of antioxidants
Dark chocolate has organic compounds which are active in the body and act as antioxidants – especially flavanols, polyphenols and catechins. Cocoa has one of the highest levels of oxygen radical absorption capacity, which measures antioxidant activity.
2. Helps in healthy blood circulation and blood pressure
Flavanols that we talked about before can help healthy blood circulation by stimulating the lining of the arteries and produce nitric oxide that sends signals to do the arteries relax. These loose arteries lower resistance to blood flow, which naturally lowers blood pressure. These effects are however sweet at best, so if you are suffering from arterial hypertension, dark chocolate alone will not solve it. More research in this area is necessary.
3. May reduce the risk of heart disease
When cholesterol oxidizes, it can lodge in the arteries and eventually cause heart disease. The compounds in dark chocolate protect the body from this oxidation. A study found that cocoa reduced the risk of death from heart disease by 50% over 15 years.
A separate study showed that eating dark chocolate twice a week reduced calcified plaque in the arteries by 32%. Eating more than five times a week reduced the risk of heart disease 57 percent. By mixing it with almonds can help even more in terms of improving those bad cholesterol levels.
4. Could help prevent cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes
And it’s not just heart disease. A study has shown that dark chocolate can significantly reduce the risk of stroke. After more than 20,000 people over 10 years, the study found a strong correlation between the two.
Chocolate has been found to increase insulin resistance, which may determine the development of diabetes. It also stimulates endothelial function which helps maintain arterial health, improving cardiovascular health.
In fact, chocolate has such positive effect on the human body that some experts hesitate to call it a food or a medicine.
5. Lowers bad cholesterol levels
Mentioned in relation to other health benefits, lower that bad cholesterol level is a health improvement on its own. Bad cholesterol reacts to free radicals and becomes capable of damaging natural tissues like the walls of arteries. When antioxidants in cocoa enter the blood, they or they protect the body’s lipoproteins against oxidation.
6. May help brain function
It is not only your body that benefits from dark chocolate, it is also your brain. A study showed that eating dark chocolate for five days improved blood flow to the brain. Over time, cocoa can improve Cognitive function and even improve verbal fluency in older people with minor impairments. The short-term effects of cocoa on brain function can be assigned to its stimulants, such as caffeine and theobromine.
7. May help prevent depression
And it’s not just the chocolate of the physical brain that can help. The theobromine in dark chocolate can cause this energy surge and subsequent collapse, but anandamide in chocolate acts as a long-term mood and energy boost for a calming slow-burning activator.
Another chemical that helps with mood is phenethylamine, which is also found in dark chocolate. The body metabolizes this into serotonin and it regulates mood. If you don’t do enough, supplementing with phenethylamine in chocolate can bring you back to your basic needs. A survey of more than 13,000 adults compared their self-reported chocolate consumption with depressive symptoms and found that those who consumed dark chocolate in the past 24 hours were 70% less likely to experience depression.
8. Full of nutrients
In addition to all these advantages, Chocolate is not filled with the empty calories found in most sweets. It has a good level of soluble fiber to aid digestion, two-thirds of your daily iron needs, more than half of your magnesium intake, and will meet almost all of your manganese and copper needs. It is also full of zinc, phosphorus, selenium and potassium. And while chocolate contains a fair amount of fat, its fat is mostly healthy, made up of oleic acid.
9. Can be natural sunscreen
Dark chocolate can even help your skin with its bioactive compounds. His flavanols protect against sun damage and it improves blood circulation, increasing the density and hydration of the skin. A study showed that people consuming dark chocolate over a three-month period had a higher level of protection against UVB rays. Still, don’t shy away from sunscreen when you go out. Chocolate is not a substitute for a normal skin care routine.
Of course, like all good things, moderation is key. Having a square or two of dark chocolate a day has a lot of benefits, but going too far will cost you sugar and calories. Keep in mind that not all chocolate is nutritious. You should look for dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70 percent or more. These types have a little bit of sugar but not a lot and they have a lot more nutrients than your typical processed milk chocolate candy. Enjoy your dessert!
Darlena Cunha is a freelance writer and professor at the University of Florida with degrees in communications and ecology.
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