Dark chocolate contains phytonutrients called flavonoids. Flavonoids are plant chemicals that act as antioxidants and may play a role in cancer prevention and heart health. The cacao plant that chocolate is derived from also contains a compound called theobromine, which Toby Amidor, RD, a cookbook author and nutrition expert for Food Network, says may help reduce inflammation and potentially lower blood pressure.
“Cacao is packed with numerous antioxidants — actually more than green tea or red wine,” she says. “The darker you go, the more antioxidants you’ll get. But there needs to be a balance between eating palatable dark chocolate and getting the health benefits.”
Your best bet is choosing a bar with 70 percent cacao or higher, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; bars with lower percentages of cacao have more added sugar and unhealthy fats. And even though quality dark chocolate is a better choice than milk chocolate. It is still chocolate, meaning it’s high in calories and saturated fat. To avoid weight gain, Amidor recommends eating no more than 1 ounce (oz) of dark chocolate per day. Now, a look at some benefits this treat offers.
1. Dark Chocolate May Help Prevent Heart Disease and Lower the Risk of Stroke
One of the biggest benefits that researchers tout is the role dark chocolate may play in improving heart health. A systematic review and meta-analysis published in July 2020 in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that eating chocolate once per week was associated with an 8 percent lower risk of blocked arteries. Another large study, published in May 2021 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, analyzed data from more than 188,000 veterans. Hence, concluded that regularly eating about 1 oz of chocolate was associated with a lower risk of coronary artery disease.
2. The Treat May Improve Cognition, Prevent Memory Loss, and Boost Your Mood
No, it’s not your imagination — studies show that consuming dark chocolate with high percentages of cacao, such as 70 percent, may benefit your brain. There is research indicating that chocolate stimulates neural activity in areas of the brain associated with pleasure and reward, which in turn decreases stress and improves your mood, says Joy Dubost, PhD, RD, a food scientist, registered dietitian, and owner of Dubost Food and Nutrition Solutions in Arlington, Virginia.
3. Dark Chocolate Could Improve Blood Sugar Levels, and Reduce the Risk of Developing Diabetes
Eating chocolate every day doesn’t sound like the best way to prevent diabetes, but studies have shown healthy amounts of dark chocolate rich in cacao could actually improve how the body metabolizes glucose when eaten as part of a healthy diet. Insulin resistance causes high blood glucose (sugar) and is the hallmark of type 2 diabetes, per an article published in March 2019 by StatPearls.
In a study published in October 2017 in the Journal of Community and Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives, the flavonoids in dark chocolate were found to reduce oxidative stress, which scientists think is the primary cause of insulin resistance. By improving your body’s sensitivity to insulin, resistance is reduced, and in turn the risk of diseases like diabetes decreases.
4. Chocolate Is Good for Your Gut and May Help With Weight Loss
Eating chocolate every day probably seems like the last way to lose weight. But research suggests dark chocolate may play a role in controlling appetite, which in turn could help with weight loss. Neuroscientist Will Clower, PhD, wrote a book on the subject called Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight, which describes how eating a bit of dark chocolate before or after meals triggers hormones that signal to the brain you’re full. Of course, eating more than the recommended amount per day can counteract any potential weight loss, and eating dark chocolate will not counteract the effects of an overall unhealthy diet.
5. It Fights Free Radicals and May Play a Role in Cancer Prevention
Evidence that dark chocolate possesses properties that could help protect against certain types of cancer is limited but growing. Antioxidants protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals. They are unstable oxygen molecules thought to be responsible for aging and disease, per previous research.
6. It’s Good for Your Skin (in More Ways Than One)
The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health lists vitamins and minerals chocolate is packed full of — like copper, iron, magnesium, and manganese, to name a few — that are also beneficial to your skin. Manganese, for example, supports the production of collagen, a protein that helps keep skin looking young and healthy. Several earlier studies have also found the high levels of antioxidants in chocolate may protect skin from the powerful ultraviolet (UV) rays emitted by the sun.
7. Dark Chocolate May Send Good Cholesterol up, Bad Cholesterol Down
Dark chocolate is also touted as a cholesterol-lowering food, which explains why, in a study published in November 2017 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, a handful of almonds, dark chocolate, and unsweetened cocoa showed a significant drop in overweight and obese participants’ low-density lipoproteins (LDL), also known as “bad” cholesterol.
8. Dark Chocolate Is Nutritious — and Delicious!
On top of all the other potential benefits, one thing is for sure: Dark chocolate contains a ton of nutrients. Of course, the darker the chocolate the better,. But any 70 percent dark chocolate or higher contains antioxidants, fiber, potassium, calcium, copper, and magnesium.
It also contains a good chunk of calories and fat, so be mindful of your daily intake. Each brand of chocolate is also processed differently. Amidor says going organic is always best because it’s grown without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?
Pingback: 5 Natural Ways to Calm Your Growling Stomach - Fajar Magazine