Who doesn’t love chocolate? When eaten right, dark chocolate is not a guilty pleasure- it actually has numerous health benefits! But this post is not to give you the excuse to indulge yourself into bars after bars of dark chocolate, but to discuss the health benefits of dark chocolate, what to look for when buying them, and how much to eat per day!
Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
- Dark chocolate is nutritious
Dark chocolate is packed with nutritious minerals and flavanols. It is a good source of iron, zinc, potassium, phosphorous, selenium, magnesium, manganese, copper, theobromine, niacin, and caffeine.
- Has high amounts of antioxidants
Dark chocolate has potent antioxidant contents such as polyphenols, flavanols, and catachins. Antioxidants are molecules that go around and stop the free radicals from damaging your tissues. Free radicals are responsible for causing cancer, and antioxidants help destroy them. In one study, researchers found that cocoa holds more antioxidant capacity than any other fruits out there, including blueberries and acai berries!
- Protects your heart from heart diseases
Many studies were conducted to show that regular intake of cocoa have a positive effect in fighting cardiovascular event. Flavonoids in the cocoa reduced platelet aggregation, which prevents clots from forming, protecting against heart attacks or strokes. A study showed that eating dark chocolate more than 5 times per week lowered the risk of heart disease by 57% compared to those who did not eat dark chocolate. Cocoa has anti-atherogenic activity by reducing calcified plaque formation and the oxidation of LDLs (bad cholesterols!).
- Lowers the bad cholesterol and increase the good ones
Dark chocolate prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (the activation of bad cholesterol). LDL oxidation is responsible for damage around your arteries that causes atherosclerosis, and also damages other organs and eventually can cause cancer. Dark chocolate also reduces the LDL count, while it increases the HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol).
- Improves blood flow
Dark Chocolate is loaded with epicatechin, which increases the bioavailability of Nitric Oxide (NO) in the epithelium of your arteries. This helps the arteries relax, helping to increase the blood flow. In many people, it even helped to lower their blood pressure. It also stimulates renal (kidney) epithelium to have a diuretic effect (due to its caffeine content), which also helps to bring down high blood pressure.
- Helps with depression and mental fogginess
Theobromine is the key constituent in the cocoa, is structurally very similar to caffeine, and it boosts mental alertness and enhances mood. High intake of high quality dark chocolate has been linked to improvements of cognitive processing, visual-spatial awareness, abstract reasoning, scanning, and memory. Dark chocolate helps to relax the blood vessels in your brain to relax by increasing nitric oxide in its epithelium, and the more circulation your brain has, the more it can work efficiently. The compound called anandamide found in dark chocolate is similar to THC, and enhances mood and energy without the risk of addiction or abuse potential. The phenethylamine in the dark chocolate breaks down into serotonin inside your body. Serotonin is also called the happy hormone and is one of the most important mood regulating hormones in your body.
- Protects your skin from sun damage
The flavanols in the dark chocolate protects you against sun damage by improving blood flow to the skin and increasing skin density and hydration. One study found that when eating dark chocolate for 12 weeks, our skin can take double the amount of UVB rays before it actually causes damage in the skin.
- Boosts immune system
Dark chocolate’s high antioxidant content helps support your immune system. It also has tons of flavonoids that have a great anti-inflammatory activity, helping modulate your inflammatory response of your immune system. Study show that those eating high quality dark chocolate has reduced CRP (C reactive protein), which is the marker for inflammation in your blood, compared to those who did not eat it. Cocoa helps your lymphoid cells to reproduce more effectively, resulting in improved defense against pathogens.
What to look for when buying dark chocolate?
I recommend getting a dark chocolate that is at least 75% or higher in total cocoa content. It is also best to choose a dark chocolate that has as few ingredients as possible, and should always have cocoa listed as the first ingredient. It should have minimal amount of sugar, and should have sugar listed as one of the last in the ingredient list. Also try to find one that does not have lecithin, milk, artificial flavorings, or trans fat.
How much dark chocolate can I eat in a day?
Dark chocolate is still fat and calorie dense, so it is recommended to eat max one ounce of dark chocolate per day.