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  • Scientifically Proven Dark Chocolate Health Benefits for Healthy Eating Strategies

    Is dark chocolate healthy? If it is, what are the dark chocolate health benefits?

    December 8, 2014 | Related:

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    Is dark chocolate healthy? If it is, what are the dark chocolate health benefits?

    Best Dark Chocolate Health Benefits for Healthy Eating Strategies

    Dark Chocolate
    Dark chocolate has health benefits. Thank, goodness!

    It’s not a superfood but it shouldn’t be avoided. Despite the bad reputation it received from some health experts, the chocolate candy bars sitting next to gummy bears can now be called health foods.

    There have been several studies conducted proving the health benefits of dark chocolates. And they’re more than just treating a broken heart.

    What makes dark chocolate healthy?

    It’s the cacao in it that makes it a healthy sweet treat.

    • Cacao is packed with flavonoids.
    • It also contains theobromine, which is known for its ability to treat certain diseases.

    The only problem with cacao is that it’s bitter. It’s also chalky and nasty. Hence, dark chocolates are added with milk, sugar and butter to make them good for your palate.

    Unfortunately, those 3 additional compounds are bad for your health. They can cancel out the dark chocolate health benefits.

    Thus, it’s ideal to choose dark chocolates with at least 70% cacao or cocoa. The higher the number, the healthier it is.

    What type of dark chocolates should you choose?

    Pick a product that contains more nonfat cocoa solids.

    Why?

    This content offers more antioxidants.

    Even though cacao bean has fats, they’re mostly stearic acid. Don’t worry. They don’t elevate total blood cholesterol levels, unlike other saturated fatty acids.

    Another fat that makes up the health benefits of dark chocolate is its monounsaturated fat. It’s considered as a desirable fat.

    If the dark chocolate you want to eat contains ingredients other than cocoa butter, it might contain harmful saturated fats and trans fats. So, be careful.

    Apart from those healthy fats, dark chocolates can also contain the following:

    • Fiber
    • Iron
    • Magnesium
    • Copper
    • Manganese
    • Potassium
    • Phosphorus
    • Zinc
    • Selenium

    Dark chocolates include caffeine. But the amount won’t keep you awake all night. This is because the caffeine content is insignificant compared to coffee.

    Listed below are some of the possible dark chocolate health benefits based on the recent studies.

    Reduce heart attack risk

    Best Dark Chocolate Health Benefits for Healthy Eating Strategies

    Prevent Heart Attack

    Eating 1 to 3 squares of dark chocolate can reduce your risk of suffering from heart attack by 50%.

    According to the research conducted at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, it showed that the blood platelets of people who have eaten dark chocolate clotted slower than those who have not.

    This is a significant result.

    Bear in mind that when platelet clump faster, it can form a clot. When that clog blocks the blood vessels, it may cause heart attack, stroke or even death.

    It’s the flavanols of cocoa in the chocolate that reduces platelet clumping. The effect is similar to aspirin.

    Short-term studies showed that dark chocolates may reduce heart disease risk by lowering your blood pressure, forming anti-inflammation action and decreasing bad cholesterol oxidation.

    Helps with weight loss

    You like it, don’t you? We all do. This is one of the reasons you should include dark chocolate as part of your healthy eating strategies. Thus, try adding this item to your diet plan.

    You won’t be adding weight as long as you don’t overconsume.

    At University of Copenhagen, researchers found that dark chocolates could provide you with more feeling of satiety than its lighter-colored counterpart.

    With that being said, dark chocolates could indeed lessen your cravings, not just for sweet, but also for salty and fatty foods. This surely makes it easier for you to stick to a small-portion healthy eating strategy.

    Decrease blood pressure

    This is great if you’re suffering from hypertension.

    In several studies in Italy, researchers found that those who ate 3 ounces of dark chocolate have lowered their insulin resistance compared to those who ate white chocolate.

    During those studies, participants were given dark chocolates daily and their blood pressure was measured daily. Not only did their insulin resistance was curbed but their systolic blood pressure was also reduced.

    Raises HDL

    It’s the good cholesterol, which is great to further reduce your risk for heart disease. The cocoa in this chocolate decreases oxidation of LDL cholesterol, as previously mentioned. While it decreases LDL oxidation and total LDL, it increases HDL level.

    Bear in mind that when LDL is oxidized, it reacts with free radicals present in the body. This action makes LDL particle capable of damaging your tissues, especially the lining of heart’s arteries.

    Thus, with the help of dark chocolate health benefits, oxidation of LDL can be reduced, although it can’t be prevented.

    Improves blood flow

    As you consume dark chocolate regularly and within the RDA, you may see improvements in your blood flow. That is, according to a recent research.

    When you consume dark choco with 80% cocoa, your blood vessels’ ability to relax will improve significantly. This is good news if you have cardiovascular problems.

    Enhances blood flow to the brain

    There are several chemical compounds of dark chocolate that can improve blood flow to the brain. This will provide you with positive effects to your mood and cognitive function.

    In terms of mood, those women who regularly ate dark choco during their pregnancy were reported to handle stress better than those mothers who abstained from eating it. The babies of those mothers who ate dark choco regularly were happier.

    This is great news for you, if you’ve just given birth. If you’re under stress because of motherhood, you can either pop a few pieces of dark choco or stick a pacifier to your screaming baby.

    It’s said that dark chocolate enhances the action of serotonin and other neurotransmitters that regulate mood and sleep.

    When it comes to cognitive function, those who are suffering from mental impairment may find dark choco to be beneficial in helping them improve their verbal fluency while reducing their risk factors of developing dementia and other mental disorders.

    Those who regularly eat this treat also reported to have experienced less fatigue.

    Prevents diabetes

    Best Dark Chocolate Health Benefits for Healthy Eating Strategies

    Dark Choco May Prevent Diabetes

    Okay, now you’re surprised.

    Studies showed that, besides those dark chocolate health benefits we’ve mentioned above, this sweet treat can help you control your blood sugar. This is especially beneficial if you have type 2 diabetes.

    We’ve already mentioned earlier that eating this sweet can reduce insulin resistance. With the help of flavonoids in this chocolate, the cells in your body will function normally again while they regain their ability to use the insulin more efficiently.

    Because this chocolate has low GI, it won’t cause huge sugar spike in your blood.

    Boosts benefits of probiotics

    That is, when you consume dark chocolates along with prebiotics (not probiotics). The cocoa in it encourages proper conversion of polyphenols into absorbable anti-inflammatory compounds when reaching your stomach. Prebiotics or special form of fiber encourages healthful gut bacteria.

    Caveat

    Despite the many health benefits of dark chocolate, not all types of dark chocos are created equal. Each product contains variable amount of flavonoids or antioxidants.

    In order to obtain the best type, you must choose a product that contains more non-fat cocoa solids as it has more antioxidants.

    So, choose the following:

    • High amount of natural cocoa powder. Avoid Dutch cocoa as it’s alkalized cocoa.
    • Unsweetened baking choco

    How many calories are there in dark chocolates?

    If you’re trying to lose weight, you need to look into the calories of this sweet treat. It may offer health benefits but it might ruin your ability to lose weight.

    You must choose the unsweetened type as it may contain the lowest calorie and lowest fat. A serving of it may have 60 calories, 1 gram of fat, 3 grams of fiber without saturated fat.

    Cocoa in its natural state

    As much as possible, you must opt for dark choco containing cocoa in its natural form. This is because its nutritional value is high. Look for a product with higher cacao but lower sugar content.

    However, don’t expect it to be sweet or palatable. Bear in mind that the more cacao the choco contains, the more bitter the flavor is.

    What makes cacao bitter? It’s the flavanol in it that makes chocolate bitter. Some manufacturers do remove it. However, flavanols are antioxidants. They’re also responsible for giving dark chocolate its health benefits. Without it, eating dark choco won’t do anything good to your health.

    Best Dark Chocolate Health Benefits for Healthy Eating Strategies

    Dark Choco 88% Cocoa

    If you can’t take bitter dark choco, you may consider getting sweetened one. But we encourage you to choose a product with high amount of cacao, like 70% or higher.

    Milk choco and white choco are high in sugar. They also don’t contain phytonutrients. Thus, they’re not a good choice if you wish to reap the health benefits of dark chocolate.

    Final thoughts

    The health benefits of dark chocolate can only be obtained when you consume a product with high amount of cocoa. Thus, Snickers and other favorite brands don’t count.

    Just because dark choco are healthy option doesn’t meant you must consume lots of it each day. You must still consider the calories it contains. It’s easy to overeat.

    When shopping for dark chocolate, you must choose a quality stuff, i.e. with 70% cocoa. The sweeter the choco is, the less beneficial it is. In other words, it’s just crap.

    About the author

    Erliza Lee Erliza Lee has a BS Biology degree. She likes writing topics related to health and travel.

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