Chocolate is one of the most used comfort food on the planet. And it’s also been thought to be very unhealthy, but here’s the catch: the bad kind of chocolate is the processed type, the one flooded with sugar and additives. But the real chocolate, the dark chocolate, is actually unbelievably good for our health.
What’s the difference?
Real, dark chocolate actually consists of mostly cocoa. It’s an incredible substance providing many health benefits. So, what you need to do is to look for dark chocolates with a high content of cocoa, but just so you know – the more cocoa there is, the bitter the chocolate will be. Don’t buy chocolate with less than 70% cocoa, but be careful – content of flavanol, one of the most valuable components of cocoa, will depend on the manufacturing process so two different bars of chocolate from different companies may contain different levels of flavanol, even both of them contain 70% cocoa.
Nevertheless, dark chocolate is still good for you, so, here are a couple of strong reasons why dark chocolate should be within your reach on daily basis.
It is nutritious
If you eat quality dark chocolate, it means it has a high content of cocoa, which is very nutritious for our bodies. In short, cocoa contains soluble fiber and it is full of different minerals, including iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese. To be more precise, if you eat 100 grams of dark chocolate with 70-85% cocoa, you will get the incredible 98% of the RDA for manganese, 89% of the RDA for copper 67% of the RDA for iron and 11 grams of fiber – just to give you a clearer insight. Not to mention you will also take in potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium into your body.
But be careful – 100 grams is not an amount that would be recommended to eat every day – there is still a considerate amount of sugar there, along with 600 calories, so be moderate.
It may improve blood flow and lowers blood pressure
The flavanols in dark chocolate stimulate the production of nitric oxide, which relaxes your arteries, which reduces your blood pressure by lowering resistance to blood flow. In other words, it restores flexibility of your arteries, while also preventing white cells from sticking to blood vessel walls. Even though numerous controlled trials proved this theory to be right, the effects are fairly mild, so don’t just rely on dark chocolate to manage your blood pressure.
It may help you lose weight
Maybe this sounds unbelievable, but it has been proven that dark chocolate lessens cravings for sweet, fatty and salty food. If you are trying to lose weight and feel hungry for junk food at one point, take a piece of dark chocolate instead. It will help you go through cravings and maintain your new, healthy diet.
It is a rich source of antioxidants
Not many types of food have as many antioxidants as dark chocolate. Antioxidants fight free radicals causing our skin to age and damage our cells, leading to certain chronic and debilitating diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Antioxidants in cocoa include polyphenols, flavanols, and catechins, and they are packed into this sweet food. Dark chocolate has even more antioxidants than world-famous Acai berries, as well as apples, black tea, and red wine.
It fights bad cholesterol and insulin resistance
There are several risk factors for heart disease, and dark chocolate helps in reducing all of them. For starters, cocoa in dark chocolate decreases bad cholesterol and helps to raise good cholesterol in our bodies. As it also reduces insulin resistance, namely improves insulin sensitivity, it can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.
It reduces stress
This sounds true, right? We already knew that! But according to a Swiss research, an ounce and a half of dark chocolate on daily basis reduces stress hormone levels and soothes metabolic effects of stress to some extent. The secret is in dark chocolate’s bioactive compounds which increase anandamide levels, which is a lipid in control of relaxing your body.
It may improve your brain function
As blood flow to the brain is also improved thanks to dark chocolate, your brain is also able to function better. Improvements can also be seen in elderly people, as cocoa inside dark chocolate improves their cognitive function and verbal fluency. And let’s not forget that its stimulant substances similar to caffeine also help improving brain function, but don’t try to use it instead of coffee to wake up in the morning – you would need a lot, really a lot of dark chocolate to do that.
It may protect your skin
Dark chocolate contains bioactive compounds that are valuable for your skin. Namely, flavonols protect the skin against damage caused by the sun, speeds up the blood flow to the skin, hydrates it and increases its density. So, if you are planning to go to the seaside for your summer holidays, indulge yourself with dark chocolate or raw cacao powder recipes a couple of weeks before you go.
It could make exercise more effective
In a recent study, male cyclists managed to improve their speed and stamina thanks to eating 1 1/2 squares of dark chocolate every day. The cocoa substance responsible for it is epicatechin that improves energy metabolism, cardiac functioning, and blood flow, of course.
As you can see, there is substantial evidence that dark chocolate provides numerous health benefits and should get more attention. Of course, this definitely doesn’t mean that people should start eating large amounts of chocolate after every meal, as it still has a significant amount of calories. A square or two after a meal is quite enough to reap the benefits and not take in too many calories and sugar. Organic, dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa content is the best offer there, so choose the real deal.
About the Author – Victoria is a journalist and a fitness enthusiast. She has a B.Sc. in nutrition and even spent a few years working as a personal trainer. She’s quite passionate about writing, and sharing her tips and tricks. When she’s not writing, she tries to squeeze in as much traveling and discovering more inspiration as she can.