You may have heard that chocolate is good for you, but do you know why? Here are 4 ways that dark chocolate may be beneficial for your health…
Mmmm…chocolate… Chocolate is likely of the favorite foods on earth, and some people would rather give up their cell phones than give up chocolate – which is saying a lot in this day and age!
In fact, chocolate is one of those marvelous foods that is not only delicious, but actually good for you! Yes, there is considerable evidence that cocoa contains powerful antioxidants and other nutrients that can have a protective effect on your health.
This doesn’t mean you should go hog-wild and gorge yourself on chocolate, of course! But enjoying a square or two of dark chocolate daily won’t harm you, and may benefit your health.
Keep in mind that not all chocolate is healthy, however. Most typical candy bars are full of unhealthy ingredients, and contain relatively little beneficial nutrients. Make sure you are eating quality chocolate – meaning, organic dark chocolate with 70% or higher cocoa content. It will still contain some sugar (otherwise you wouldn’t want to eat it!), but choosing at least 70% cocoa means the sugar content will be relatively low.
Here are 4 amazing health benefits of dark chocolate:
1. Dark Chocolate is Very Nutritious
If you buy quality dark chocolate with a high cocoa content, then it is actually quite nutritious.
It contains a decent amount of soluble fiber and is loaded with minerals.
A 100 gram bar of dark chocolate with 70-85% cocoa contains (1):
- 11 grams of fiber.
- 67% of the RDA for Iron.
- 58% of the RDA for Magnesium.
- 89% of the RDA for Copper.
- 98% of the RDA for Manganese.
- It also has plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.
Of course, 100 grams (3.5 ounces) is a fairly large amount and not something you should be consuming daily. All these nutrients also come with 600 calories and moderate amounts of sugar.
For this reason, dark chocolate is best consumed in moderation.
The fatty acid profile of cocoa and dark chocolate is excellent. The fats are mostly saturated and monounsaturated, with small amounts of polyunsaturates.
2. Dark Chocolate is a Powerful Source of Antioxidants
Have you ever heard of a measure called ORAC?
ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. It is a measure of the antioxidant activity of foods.
The biological relevance of this metric is questioned, because it’s done in a test tube and may not have the same effect in the body.
However, I think it is worth mentioning that raw, unprocessed cocoa beans are among the highest scoring foods that have been tested.
Dark chocolate is loaded with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants. These include polyphenols, flavanols, catechins, among others.
One study showed that cocoa and dark chocolate contained more antioxidant activity, polyphenols and flavanols than other fruits they tested, which included blueberries and Acai berries (2).
3. Dark Chocolate May Improve Blood Flow and Lower Blood Pressure
The flavanols in dark chocolate can stimulate the endothelium, the lining of arteries, to produce Nitric Oxide (NO), which is a gas (3).
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.
There are many controlled trials showing that cocoa and dark chocolate can improve blood flow and lower blood pressure, but the effects are usually mild (4, 5, 6, 7)…
4. Dark Chocolate May Lower The Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
The compounds in dark chocolate appear to be highly protective against the oxidation of LDL.
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.
It turns out that we have several long-term observational studies that show a fairly drastic improvement.
In a study of 470 elderly men, cocoa was found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular death by a whopping 50% over a 15 year period (15).
Another study revealed that eating chocolate 2 or more times per week lowered the risk of having calcified plaque in the arteries by 32%. Eating chocolate less frequently had no effect (16).
Yet another study showed that chocolate 5+ times per week lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease by 57% (17).
Of course, these 3 studies are so-called observational studies that can not prove that it was the chocolate that caused the reduction in risk.
However, given that we have a biological mechanism (lower blood pressure and oxidized LDL) then I find it plausible that regular consumption of dark chocolate can in fact reduce the risk of heart disease.
Read more on the health benefits of chocolate at AuthorityNutrition.com…