Heath Benefits of Dark Chocolate
Dr. Lisa, Nurse Becky, and I are all fans of good chocolate. There are not many times when I have heard someone say that they don’t like chocolate. So there is great news—dark chocolate is actually good for you!
The healthiest kind of chocolate contains 70-85% cocoa. So you want to aim for a very dark chocolate. Not only does this type contain less fat and sugar than milk chocolate, it also contains a good amount of soluble fiber and it is loaded with minerals: Iron, Magnesium, Copper, Manganese, Potassium, Phosphorus, Zinc, and Selenium.
And the other very important news is that dark chocolate is a powerful source of antioxidants, such as Polyphenols, Flavonoids, and Catechins. What is the big deal about antioxidants? They are chemicals (and in the case of dark chocolate, they are naturally-occurring) that may help prevent diseases such as heart disease and cancer by warding off cell damage.
Dark chocolate can help to lower blood pressure, raise HDL (good) cholesterol, and protect LDL (bad) cholesterol against oxidation. Flavonoids can stimulate the lining of the arteries to produce nitric oxide, which stimulates the arteries to relax. This lowers resistance to blood flow, which lowers blood pressure. One Australian study showed that eating chocolate high in antioxidants reduced the blood pressure-raising effects of exercise on people who were overweight.
Why is it important to protect LDL cholesterol against oxidation? Oxidized LDL damages arteries by causing inflammation and increasing the accumulation of artery-clogging plaque. Another study, done in Germany, showed a 39% decrease in heart disease in people who consumed 2-3 squares of dark chocolate several times a week.
The nitric oxide produced by Flavonoids also decreases insulin resistance, which can help prevent diabetes.
Dark Chocolate can help protect your skin from sun damage. In one study, it was determined that in people who consumed chocolate that was high in flavonoids for 3 months, it took twice as long for their skin to begin to redden which is the start of a sunburn.
Drinking cocoa or eating dark chocolate can increase blood flow to the brain, which can help improve your level or alertness and performance. Good for the 3 pm work slump!
We all know that emotional eating is not good, but if you are stressed-out, try eating an ounce and a half of dark chocolate every day for two weeks. This can significantly reduce your level of the stress hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol can suppress thyroid function, raise blood sugar levels, and contribute to weight gain. So dark chocolate can reduce these metabolic effects of stress and cortisol.
One study also showed that pregnant women who consumed a small amount of chocolate daily reported that they handled stress better, and that there babies were happier and smiled more. It has also been shown that dark chocolate helps to quiet coughs almost as well as codeine, without the negative side effects like sleepiness. The chemical in dark chocolate that is responsible for all of these benefits is called Theobromine.
As you can see, there are many reasons to make dark chocolate a part of your diet. It has been shown that consuming dark chocolate can reduce cravings for sweet, salty, and fatty foods. Don’t overdo it, though, because you still need to be conscious of your calorie intake. Savor a square or two after dinner.
Enjoy your dark chocolate and reap the healthy benefits!
Blessings to you,