Great news for chocolate lovers! Dark chocolate is known to provide several health benefits. Chocolate comes from the cocoa bean, which is rich in plant-derived flavanols. Flavanols are a kind of phytochemical; a bioactive chemical found in many plant foods. Phytochemicals are proven antioxidants, which implies they assist protect the body’s cells from damage. These phytochemicals are found in every bite of dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate not only contains cacao but other important nutrients. Those with higher amounts of cacao also contain fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, potassium, and manganese; all of which are good for your health.
Dark chocolate with a minimum of 70% or more cacao listed as the first ingredient is the healthiest choice because it’s plenty of cacao and little added sugar. Some bars contain up to 95% cacao! The more cacao, the more health benefits. Milk and chocolate may taste good, but they contain mostly sugar and little to no cacao. For this reason, it is best to avoid them in the interest of your health.
Dark chocolate is often considered a heart-healthy food. The flavanols in cacao can lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and raise “good” HDL cholesterol which prevents the buildup of plaque within the arteries. Together with vasodilator properties, these flavanols help blood flow easily through the body thus lowering blood pressure and reducing the danger of cardiopathy, cardiovascular disease and congestive coronary failure. Additionally, blood can flow easily to the brain increasing cognitive performance and reducing the danger of stroke.
Some research suggests the flavanols found in cocoa may boost memory and brain function. A randomized, double-blind experiment published in Hypertension looked at ninety elderly participants with mild cognitive impairment. The study had participants drink a dairy-based cocoa flavanol mixture that contained various concentrations of cocoa. Other sources of flavanols were restricted in the diet of the participants. The study resulted in a better performance of memory and better cognitive scores in the participants who drank the mixture with a higher concentration rather than the lower concentration mixture. The higher and moderate concentration groups also showed improvement in insulin resistance and blood pressure levels compared to the group drinking the lower concentration.
Decreases Insulin Resistance
Despite chocolate’s reputation as being high in sugar and fat, dark chocolate has been found to benefit those with diabetes. Dark chocolate containing a minimum of 70% cacao will not cause high spikes in blood glucose because it has a low glycemic index. Since the cacao flavanols can improve insulin resistance, they will help the body use insulin efficiently.
Eating this treat in moderation can also improve your mood. Phenylethylamine is produced in the brain once you feel you’re falling in love and releases endorphins which will cause you to feel happy. No surprise, this chemical is also found in dark chocolate.
There are many ways to incorporate dark chocolate in your healthy eating plan. Make a tiny piece a daily treat if you have an appetite and want a tasty snack. You’ll melt it and use it as a dip for apple, orange, and banana slices. That is one delicious, phytochemical packed fondue! Dark chocolate chips can also be used as a healthy topping for plain yogurt, or mixed into trail mix. regardless of how you decide on to enjoy it, making dark chocolate a part of your day is something that tastes good, and can cause you to feel good inside and out.