The Health Benefits of Dark ChocolateOctober 16, 2023
Dark chocolate offers numerous health advantages, but you should choose carefully. Look for options with reduced caloric and sugar content.
An ounce of dark chocolate contains vitamins and minerals such as iron, potassium, manganese and copper as well as heart-healthy fats such as oleic acid which does not raise cholesterol levels and palmitic acid for added heart benefits.
Improves Heart Health
Cocoa beans, which form the basis of chocolate, contain protective flavonoids called flavanols that may help prevent low-grade inflammation and diseases like heart disease, cancers and type 2 diabetes. One specific flavanol known as epicatechin is thought to keep blood vessels flexible while simultaneously lowering blood pressure.
People suffering from cardiovascular disease may reap some advantages from eating chocolate, provided it’s chosen carefully. Amidor suggests searching for dark chocolate that has minimal processing and boasts high cacao percentage. By doing this, more flavonoids will be available without an abundance of added sugars, fats or additives.
Dark chocolate may help improve heart health, but should only be eaten occasionally and in moderation. In order to reap its full benefits, chocolate should be balanced out by other nutrient-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables.
Inflammation is an instinctive response to injury or infection that helps us heal more quickly, but chronic inflammation can become detrimental and lead to conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
Dark chocolate consumption can help improve how your body metabolizes glucose, lower insulin resistance and minimize oxidative stress – helping you prevent and treat conditions like type 2 diabetes.
Dark chocolate’s flavanols stimulate your body to produce nitric oxide, relaxing blood vessels and improving blood flow, thus helping lower two major risk factors for cardiovascular disease: high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Furthermore, its flavanols enhance cognitive function and immunity – so for maximum benefits choose dark chocolate with at least 80% cacao content; Hunnes recommends at least this threshold when choosing nutritious dark chocolate options.
Boosts Brain Function
Flavonoids present in dark chocolate help improve brain blood flow and cognitive performance, protect cardiovascular systems and lower blood pressure, while cocoa can lower insulin resistance and increase energy levels.
Eating high-quality dark chocolate increases your level of BDNF, which promotes new brain cell formation and memory enhancement. Chocolate also acts as an effective stress management solution by stimulating endorphin and serotonin production – two feel-good chemicals produced during digestion that may provide stress relief.
Researchers have recently discovered that eating dark chocolate can increase the number of synapses in a specific part of the brain called the hippocampal CA1 region and improve episodic verbal memory and mood in healthy people. Their findings were published in Nutritional Neuroscience journal.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Studies show that regular dark chocolate consumption can significantly lower systolic blood pressure, an essential step to reduce heart disease risk. This effect can be attributed to flavanols found in dark chocolate, which stimulate your body to produce nitric oxide and dilate blood vessels, thus increasing circulation and improving overall health.
Nitric oxide produced by our bodies has also been shown to help lower cholesterol levels and curb oxidization of LDL (bad) cholesterol, protecting against atherosclerosis as a major cause of heart disease.
Researchers involved with this study determined that those who regularly consumed dark chocolate experienced improvements to their cardiovascular system, such as reduced blood pressure and an oxidation-prone LDL decrease. Additionally, regular dark chocolate eaters had higher levels of the antioxidant S-nitrosoglutathione while lower levels of 8-isoprostane.
Cholesterol itself is not inherently bad, but having too much can increase your risk for serious health conditions like heart disease and stroke. Eating dark chocolate regularly may help keep cholesterol at a manageable level.
Researchers have recently discovered that eating dark chocolate can increase HDL cholesterol while decreasing LDL and triglycerides levels. The effects are likely due to cocoa’s polyphenols.
One or more ounces of dark chocolate every week — or more if desired — can help lower cholesterol. Choose chocolate that has at least 70% cocoa content for best results and avoid those containing added milk, sugar or other unhealthy ingredients. If your cholesterol is causing concern consult your physician on ways to manage it best. CR’s testing showed some dark chocolates contained high concentrations of cadmium and lead; treat yourself occasionally!