Now here’s something that I absolutely love to talk about. Chocolate! And not just any chocolate. It has to be dark chocolate. Trust me, nothing beats that first bite of a dark chocolate bar, especially when it’s a little melted. Aaah, pure bliss.
Many people think that chocolate is bad for you, but here’s something that’ll pop that bubble. Dark chocolate is pretty healthy and boasts of tons of benefits for the body. Something that tastes delicious and keeps you healthy? Now that’s what I’m talking about!
What Is Dark Chocolate?
Dark chocolate is a bittersweet or semisweet chocolate. It is made using beans harvested from cocoa trees. This chocolate has a higher cocoa butter content and contains less milk than other forms of chocolate. It possesses a rich and intense flavor. It’s dark chocolate if it contains at least 60 percent cocoa.
It contains antioxidants, which are great defenders against harmful free radicals. It also contains the stimulants caffeine and theobromine, as well as the antidepressant phenylethylamine and serotonin. Also, did you know it also contains vitamins and minerals? That’s right, for its vitamins, dark chocolate has pantothenic acid and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, and E. For its mineral content, it possesses calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc.
Dark chocolate is also relatively low in sugar and is thus considered a healthier alternative to other types of chocolate. It also contains soluble dietary fibers and insoluble dietary fibers. In fact, some people even label it as one of the best superfoods to have. This led to a global increase in the demand for dark chocolate.
The recommended serving of dark chocolate per week is around 7 ounces. That means you get to eat an ounce of the good stuff every day. In fact, according to preventive cardiologist Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, “When looking for a sweet snack, a square of dark chocolate might, in fact, be your healthiest choice.”
Take that, chocolate haters!
Benefits of Eating Dark Chocolate
Of course, as an advocate for dark chocolate, it is imperative we discuss the benefits it has to offer. So without further ado, here they are.
Protection from Free Radicals
According to ORAC, a measure of the antioxidant activity of foods, dark chocolate has a really high score. As a matter of fact, it has more antioxidant activity, polyphenols, and flavonols than other fruits they tested, which include blueberries as well as acai berries.
Free radicals are unbalanced compounds that bring disease and damage to the body. Antioxidants actually neutralize these free radicals and protect the body from damage these free radicals cause.
Many people consider dark chocolate as a possible cancer-fighting food. How? Its compounds prevent DNA damage, lowers inflammation, and inhibits cell proliferation. It also reduces the activation of molecules that take part in the development and progression of cancer.
In addition, according to the American Cancer Institute, “Given chocolate’s rich supply of flavonoids, researchers have also investigated whether it may play a role in cancer prevention. The studies in cancer prevention are still emerging. A recent review of studies on the cancer protective properties of cocoa concluded that the evidence is limited but suggestive. More rigorous studies should be conducted on chocolates’ cancer protective role, concluded the author, because it provides ‘strong antioxidant effects in combination with a pleasurable eating experience.’”
There are many researches and studies that show the positive effects dark chocolate has on cardiovascular health. According to one recent study, dark chocolate greatly decreases the risk of cardiovascular death. Another study shows it lowers the risk of getting calcified plaque in the arteries. And yet another study shows the intake of this chocolate significantly improves heart circulation in adults.
Flavonols in this chocolate have a very positive effect on the heart by lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow to the heart and to the brain. These flavanols also make blood platelets less sticky and able to clot. This then reduces the risk of blood clots and stroke.
Dark chocolate is a natural way to pick you up out of that slump. Its energizing capabilities come from its caffeine content and other stimulants. Also, research shows that this food contains epicatechin, a plant chemical that widens the blood vessels. This ensures more blood is pumped throughout the body, which speeds up the oxygen supply, thus giving the body more energy.
Another plus in eating dark chocolate is it improves the function of the brain. It improves the flow of blood to the brain, improves cognitive function in older people with mental impairment, and also improves verbal fluency. Also, the cocoa flavanols help people with dementia and stroke. And finally, it boosts focus and memory as well.
For this benefit, the flavanols once again take center stage. They improve blood flow to the skin, increases skin density and hydration, and also improves overall skin complexion. Flavanols also protect the skin from damage by the sun by absorbing the harmful UV light. This means goodbye to sunspots, wrinkles, blemishes, crow’s feet, and laugh lines.
Now this is probably one of the benefits you weren’t expecting. Hard to believe, but it’s true. According to a study in Physiology and Behavior, cocoa flavanols enhance visual performance. That means an improvement in detecting motion and reading low-contrast letters. This is likely due to the increase of blood flow to the retina and the brain. In addition, the copper content in dark chocolate prevents damage to the optic nerve. Its vitamin A content also protects against macular degeneration.
When you eat dark chocolate, this stimulates the production of endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals in the brain that bring about feelings of pleasure and happiness. And since this food has serotonin, which acts as an antidepressant, it will definitely help turn that frown upside down.
Also, flavanols also keep you feeling calmer and more content. Studies show that people who consume more dark chocolate have more positive mood states. Many people also choose to eat this food to lower their stress levels and feel more relaxed.
Is an Aphrodisiac
When you want to get it on, have some dark chocolate. It is an effective aphrodisiac. Eating the stuff increases blood flow to sexual organs. This preps them up for proper function and also increases sensation, satisfaction, and desire. It is also known as a super libido food because it’s a great source of phenylethylamine (PEA). PEA induces sensations of euphoria and is also known as the romance chemical.
A Word of Caution
As with anything, you should have too much of dark chocolate. According to the Mayo Clinic, dark chocolate causes many things. Some of these include acne, allergic skin reactions, bloating, colic in infants, constipation, decreased bone density, and tooth decay. Other examples are eczema, excess gas, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, jitteriness, and migraines.
If you are lactose intolerant, make sure to probably read labels and your research before picking out a dark chocolate.