Chocolate has a bad reputation in the food community because most (read: milk) chocolate is packed with sugar and doesn’t offer any real nutrition. But dark chocolate can actually be very healthful.
The study proves that dark chocolate-sweet, rich and delicious-is good for more than curing a broken heart. The secret behind its powerful punch is cacao, also the source of the sweet’s distinct taste. It is packed with healthy chemicals like flavonoids and theobromine, this little bean is a disease-killing bullet. Cacao on its own is bitter, chalky, nasty stuff. Though raw cacao is very good for you, it’s not sweet like the chocolate you find in candy bars at the grocery store, which has been roasted and made more palatable with sugar and oftentimes vanilla.
But this means that you shouldn’t take these health benefits as a go-ahead to eat a bar of store-bought chocolate every day. Made from the seed of the cocoa tree, it is one of the best sources of anti-oxidants on the planet. Try to stick with raw dark chocolate and consume it in moderation; just a few bites a day will satisfy your sweet tooth without going overboard. Roasting chocolate at high temperatures removes a lot of the benefits, so try to find some raw chocolate bars that don’t add lots of sugar.
You’ll notice that bars of dark chocolate have percentages on the packaging; these numbers reference the proportion of cacao in the bar. While eating dark chocolate can lead to the health benefits that chocolate is also high in fat. The higher the percentage, the less sugar (and other flavorings) added and more health benefits the chocolate has.
Dark chocolate is a great choice for baking, as it’s not overly sweet. Try it in all kinds of baked goods, like dark chocolate cookies and banana bread, healthier snacks like kale chips, and even dark hot chocolate.
Bad cholesterol reduction
Dark chocolate is loaded with nutrients that can positively affect your health. Along with a healthy diet and exercise, dark chocolate may help lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase good cholesterol (HDL). In the long term, this should cause much less cholesterol to lodge in the arteries and we should see a lower risk of heart disease over the long term.
Chocolate can also aid in weight loss, because it can help one feel fuller. Dark chocolate, in particular, is rich in fiber, helping to keep people full so they will then not feel the need to eat as much. It reduces cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods. Chocolate can cause breakouts, dark chocolate is actually very good for the skin. The flavonoids in dark chocolate give some protection against UV damage from sun exposure. In research it is found that three months of eating chocolate with high levels of flavonoids, people’s skin took twice as long to show sunburn.
Blood pressure lowering
The flavanols in dark chocolate can stimulate the endothelium, the lining of arteries, to produce Nitric Oxide (NO), which is a gas. Eating a few bites of dark chocolate can improve your blood pressure with polyphenols, which help increase the oxygen flow through your arteries. One of the functions of NO is to send signals to the arteries to relax, which lowers resistance to blood flow and therefore reduces blood pressure.
Chocolate can actually work to prevent diabetes. People who ate one dark chocolate candy bar each day for 15 days had a huge drop in potential for insulin resistance. Claudio Ferri, M.D., the lead researcher of the study, said, “Flavonoids increase nitric oxide production and that helps control insulin sensitivity.”
Chocolate has been known to improve one’s mood. It also has been proven to reduce stress. Chocolate produces serotonin, which releases lots of good feelings in your brain and allows you to de-stress naturally. Chocolate contains flavonoids, which boost blood flow to the brain, causing people to feel more alert and awake. The increase of blood flow to the brain caused by flavonols may also increase the flow of blood to the retina, which could boost vision.
Dark chocolate improves blood flow and may help prevent the formation of blood clots. It helps to reduce risk of h eart attack and stroke than those that did not consume dark chocolate. This is due to antioxidant compounds found in chocolate known as flavonoids, which increase flexibility in veins and arteries. Eating dark chocolate may also prevent arterioscelerosis i.e., the antioxidants in dark chocolate help prevent heart disease by improving blood flow and protecting against hardening of the arteries. Choose dark chocolate with high cocoa content for maximum antioxidants. In fact, one chocolate bar has five times the flavonoids of an apple.