10 Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
Do you hesitate when ordering dessert because you know you should be sticking to a healthier diet? It’s time to let go of the guilt and enjoy yourself! When given the option, go with dark chocolate. Long gone are the beliefs that chocolate ruins your skin and makes you fat. There are far more health benefits than you may realize hidden inside one of the world’s favorite flavors.
The catch is that you can’t just pick any kind of chocolate. Cacao, or cocoa, is the ingredient in chocolate that holds all the power. Dark chocolate has more cacao and less sugar than milk or white chocolate, both of which have virtually no healthy attributes. The higher the amount of cacao the healthier the chocolate is to eat or drink. It’s recommended that you choose chocolate with a 70% or higher cacao content. So when picking sweets for yourself or buying a Valentine’s Day gift for a loved one, make the smart choice with dark chocolate and feel proud that you’re contributing to healthy living because of the following:
Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
1. Dark Chocolate and Teeth – Despite what you’ve heard in years past, chocolate can promote dental health thanks to tannins. According to Dr. Linda Niessen of Baylor College of Dentistry, tannins block oral bacteria from sticking to teeth and causing tooth decay. The real destroyers of teeth when eating chocolate is the added sugar and length of time you spend eating it. However, enjoying a few pieces of low sugar dark chocolate in one sitting can keep your smile intact.
2. Dark Chocolate and Skin – Yet another myth about chocolate is that is causes acne. Numerous studies have shown there is no direct connection between eating chocolate and skin blemishes. In fact, cacao is often found in skincare products because it’s chock full of antioxidants. The antioxidant flavonoid helps protect skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays and pollution, soothes inflammation such as acne, prevents wrinkles by restoring collagen, and reduces stretch marks when used while pregnant.
3. Dark Chocolate and Heart – Let the heart-shaped box chocolate is often stored in be a reminder of its benefits to cardiovascular health. There’s no shortage of medical studies touting chocolate as a heart healthy superfood. The high antioxidant content of dark chocolate has been shown to help prevent heart disease, reduce the risk of heart attacks, and improve blood flow to the heart. However, a study published in the Journal of Nutrition recommends eating no more than half a bar of dark chocolate (about 40-50g) over the course of one week to retain the most benefits.
4. Dark Chocolate and Brain – While craving chocolate may overwhelm your brain for a bit, once you begin eating it you’ll quickly reduce stress, feel a little happier, and even improve concentration. This is due to the release of a mood-altering brain chemical, serotonin, which is triggered by the tryptophan in chocolate. If you need to get focused, flavonoids in chocolate increase alertness by improving blood flow in the brain.
5. Dark Chocolate and Blood – In correlation with heart health, chocolate rewards those who indulge in it with better circulation. Antioxidant-rich dark chocolate lowers blood pressure for those with hypertension, lowers cholesterol, and lowers blood sugar levels. Each of these factors are vital to prevent heart disease, cardiac arrest, stroke, kidney failure, and more.
6. Dark Chocolate and PMS – Long ago it was believed chocolate caused PMS simply because women would crave and consume more during that time of the month. Today, that myth has been debunked with modern medicine’s acknowledgement of chocolate’s ability to actually relieve physical and mental symptoms. Antioxidants combat headaches, polyphenol relieves cramps and back pain, while flavonoids level out mood swings and cravings. It’s as if chocolate was put on this planet just to treat Premenstrual syndrome.
7. Dark Chocolate and Muscles – Eating dark chocolate or sipping cacao tea may help your muscle recuperate after a workout. Minerals essential for normal muscle function are potassium, magnesium, and iron. All of which are in chocolate. These nutrients allow muscles to properly contract and avoid cramps. It’s also been found that the epicatechin in chocolate can help stimulate muscle growth by increasing mitochondria cell production.
8. Dark Chocolate and Lungs – Our lungs are always exposed to cell damaging free radicals from our environment or processes inside our body. Dark chocolate is one of the foods highest in antioxidants which protect your lungs from harmful pollution and effects of smoking. Iron is also an important element in overall respiratory health. The USDA National Nutrient Database states that dark chocolate contains more iron per ounce than beef, the more commonly sought after source for iron.
9. Dark Chocolate and Digestion – Dark chocolate is easy to digest and can help regulate your digestive system by alleviating diarrhea. The polyphenols work to slow down gastrointestinal function and increase necessary water absorption to prevent dehydration and diarrhea. Cocoa is also a source of fiber which is known for improving intestinal function.
10. Dark Chocolate and Sex – Giving chocolates as a gift is considered a romantic gesture in many cultures. It’s considered an aphrodisiac by many because it sparks serotonin production and lifts your mood. The Aztecs thought it to enhance fertility and Casanova referred to it as the “elixir of love”. While the debate continues in the medical field as to whether or not it truly is a libido booster, I don’t think the rest of the world will stop sharing chocolate with their loved ones either way.
They don’t just refer to chocolate as the “food of the gods” for nothing. For 3000 years people have enjoyed the health benefits from dark chocolate and are showing no signs of stopping. The new trend is to become a chocolate connoisseur who knows cacao percentages and agricultural regions best suited to grow cocoa trees much like coffee and wine lovers.