Wouldn’t it be nice if we were told that chocolate is good for us? If you would like that little bit of news, you will be happy to hear that it actually is. However, the only chocolate that is good for us is dark chocolate – the darker the better. This is because this particular type of chocolate is filled with all sorts of nutrients that are beneficial to us. Indeed, the cocoa seeds used to make chocolate are some of the best antioxidant sources found naturally on our planet. So what are some of the benefits of chocolate?
It Is Highly Nutritious
So long as you purchase dark chocolate with high cocoa content (go for 85% if you can stand it), it has nutritional benefits. It contains quite a bit of fiber and many different minerals. Indeed, just 100 grams contains 58% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for magnesium, 67% for iron, 98% for manganese, and 89% of copper. It also contains phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and zinc. Unfortunately, 100 grams of dark chocolate also contains 600 calories, so it is essential to eat it in moderation. Nevertheless, the nutritional benefits from dark chocolate cannot be denied.
Dark Chocolate Is Packed with Antioxidants
The antioxidant activity of products is measured in what is known as ORAC.
ORAC is short for Oxygen Radiance Absorption Capacity and is a clever test designed to measure the collective antioxidant power of various substances found together in a food.
The ORAC level of raw cocoa beans is one of the highest of all tested products. Furthermore, there are many other organic compounds contained in cocoa beans that actively function as antioxidants as well, including flavanols, polyphenols and catechines. Indeed, it is believed that the concentration of these antioxidants is higher than what they are in acai berries and blueberries.
Chocolate Can Help Lower Blood Pressure and Improve Blood Flow
Because dark chocolate contains a large amount of flavanols, these are able to stimulate the endothelium. The endothelium is the lining of the arteries and when it is stimulated, it produces the gas nitric oxide, which in turn tells the arteries to relax. When the arteries relax, the resistance to blood flow is reduced, meaning blood pressure is lowered as well. Various studies have shown that dark chocolate can indeed mildly reduce blood pressure.
Small amounts of dark chocolate “efficiently reduced blood pressure,” report the researchers, who included Dirk Taubert, MD, PhD, of Germany’s University Hospital of Cologne.
Dark Chocolate Raises HDL Level and Provides LDL with Protection Against Oxidation
It has also been shown that there are significant positive links between dark chocolate and heart disease. During clinical trials, dark chocolate lowered levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol, particularly in men. Additionally, it was shown that it helps to increase HDL. In other words, it has very positive effects on the bad cholesterol that has oxidized with the free radicals coursing through our body. When LDL oxidizes, it can cause untold damage to the body, most notably to the lining of the heart’s arteries. Because of all the antioxidants in cocoa, it will come as no surprise that it has positive effects on LDL as well. Moreover, an added benefit is that it helps to reduce insulin resistance, which is another major cause of heart disease, as well as diabetes.
Italian researchers discovered that health benefits of dark chocolate include significantly improved markers of insulin sensitivity, decreasing fasting insulin and glucose levels, as well as insulin and glucose responses to the glucose tolerance test.
Chocolate Reduces the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
As already stated, dark chocolate positively affects levels of oxidized LDL in the body. This means, therefore, that less cholesterol will be able to lodge in the arteries, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease. Interestingly, drastic improvements have been noted in a recent scientific study. Some 470 elderly men were studied and it was found that their risk of heart disease was reduced by 50% over a period of 15 years.
Another study showed similar results, thus confirming the above-mentioned research. They found that consuming dark chocolate at least twice a week reduced the amount of calcified plaque in the arteries by at least 32%. However, those who ate chocolate less than twice a week did not notice this effect.
Indeed, the frequency of consumption seems to be vital. A further study showed that those who consumed it at least five times a week could see a 57% drop in the risk of developing heart disease.
It has to be pointed out that these were observational studies, however. This means that it is not possible to actually conclusively prove that chocolate is the reason for these health benefits. However, it is a logical conclusion because it has been scientifically proven beyond a doubt that chocolate helps to lower oxidized LDL levels, which is a major contributor to heart and other cardiovascular diseases.
The list of potential health benefits associated with consuming dark chocolate continues to grow as further studies are conducted. Scientists seem to be obsessed with this food that many of us see as a sin. The reality, of course, is that the tasty chocolate bars and milk chocolates do not contain any of these benefits. It is very important, therefore, to also be aware of the good and bad brands of chocolate.
The method used to process the raw cacao bean can affect the amount of flavanols in the end product. If your chocolate says “processed with alkali” on the nutrition label, then it’s going to have a whole lot less flavanols (more). Processing with alkali is called “dutching”.
As such, it is important to always read the label on any chocolate that is purchased. Usually, it is clearly indicated whether the chocolate is a dark chocolate, milk chocolate or even white chocolate. Only choose dark chocolate and find the ones that have not been ‘dutched’ or otherwise processed with alkali. Some brands to consider include Pascha, Sweetriot and Alter Eco, which are all also organic brands.
Remember to share this article with all your friends and family, so that they can also take advantage of the amazing benefits dark chocolate has to offer.
Together we can make this world a happier, healthier world!