So here’s the sweet side of chocolate: Made from the seed of the cocoa tree, it is one of the best sources of antioxidants on the planet. Studies show that dark chocolate can improve health and lower the risk of heart disease.
Dark chocolate is very nutritious:
If you buy quality dark chocolate with a high cocoa content, then it is actually quite nutritious. It contains a decent amount of soluble fiber and is loaded with minerals.
A 100 gram bar of dark chocolate with 70-85% cocoa contains:
- 11 grams of fiber.
- 67% of the RDA for Iron.
- 58% of the RDA for Magnesium.
- 89% of the RDA for Copper.
- 98% of the RDA for Manganese.
- It also has plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.
Of course, 100 grams (3.5 ounces) is a fairly large amount and not something you should be consuming daily. All these nutrients also come with 600 calories and moderate amounts of sugar.
The fatty acid profile of cocoa and dark chocolate is excellent. The fats are mostly saturated and monounsaturated, with small amounts of polyunsaturates.
It also contains stimulants like caffeine and theobromine, but is unlikely to keep you awake at night as the amount of caffeine is very small compared to coffee.
Powerful source of antioxidants:
Dark chocolate is loaded with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants. These include polyphenols, flavanols, catechins, among others.
One study showed that cocoa and dark chocolate contained more antioxidant activity, polyphenols and flavanols than other fruits they tested, which included blueberries.
Improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure:
The bioactive compounds in cocoa can improve blood flow in the arteries and cause a small but statistically significant decrease in blood pressure.
Raises HDL and protects LDL:
Dark chocolate improves several important risk factors for disease. It lowers the susceptibility of LDL to oxidative damage while increasing HDL and improving insulin sensitivity.
Lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease:
Dark chocolate reduces LDL cholesterol and therefore should cause much less cholesterol to lodge in the arteries and should lower the risk of heart disease over the long term.
The flavonols in cocoa can protect against sun-induced damage, improve blood flow to the skin and increase skin density and hydration.
Improves brain function:
Cocoa may also significantly improve cognitive function in elderly people with mental impairment. It also improves verbal fluency and several risk factors for disease. It increases blood flow to the brain and to the heart.
Dark chocolate also contains several chemical compounds that have a positive effect on your mood and cognitive health. It encourages your brain to release endorphins, so eating dark chocolate will make you feel happier.
Controls blood sugar:
Dark chocolate helps keep your blood vessels healthy and your circulation unimpaired to protect against type 2 diabetes. Dark chocolate also has a low glycemic index, meaning it won’t cause huge spikes in blood sugar levels.
Dark Chocolate Contains Theobromine:
Dark chocolate contains theobromine, which has been shown to harden tooth enamel. That means that dark chocolate, unlike most other sweets, lowers your risk of getting cavities if you practice proper dental hygiene.
Of course this does not mean that people should go all out and consume lots of chocolate every day. It is still loaded with calories and easy to overeat on. Maybe have a square or two after dinner and try to really savor them.