6 Good Reasons To Eat More Dark Chocolate
Rightly labelled a ‘superfood’, raw cacao contains a significantly high amount of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and other health-boosting nutrients. Derived from the cacao plant, raw cacao is the unprocessed version of the cacao bean. It is also the one ingredient where chocolate is sourced from.
However, before moving any further, it is important to know that “chocolate” covers a broad spectrum. Our concern here is with minimally processed chocolate and the health benefits of dark chocolate. This does not include varieties that are highly sweetened since dark chocolate is relatively, if not completely, devoid of the sugar content and delivers a moderate to intensely bitter taste.
It is also this version of chocolate that comes with amazing health benefits. For centuries the cacao plant has been used medicinally and in skin care remedies. Its nutritional value puts it at a high place in the world of ingredients with dark chocolate offering the most benefits.
With a good amount of minerals and soluble fiber, a 100gm dark chocolate bar with 70-85% cacao solids comes with:
- 67% of iron
- 11 gm Fiber
- 58% Magnesium
- 98% Manganese
- 89% of Copper
- And a good amount of phosphorous, potassium, selenium and zinc.
To get the most benefits out of dark chocolate consumption without overindulging, it is best to eat a small piece by itself or include it in a recipe. Even though this chocolate variety may be lacking in sugar, it is still not a low-calorie or low-fat food, so it is important not to overeat.
To find out just how dark chocolate can help improve health, here is a look at its top health benefits:
1. Excellent Source of Antioxidants
If you are not familiar with the term ORAC, it is an abbreviation for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. This basically refers to the antioxidant activity in foods. Studies indicate that dark chocolate contains an optimum amount of antioxidants.
The biologically active compounds found in dark chocolate like polyphenols, catechins and flavanols work as antioxidants. Studies have shown that dark chocolate and cocoa showcase higher antioxidant activity than berries.
2. Offers Skin Protective Properties
Dark chocolate contains bioactive compounds that are effective in healing skin. Studies have indicated that cocoa components with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory features are crucial for maintaining healthy skin.
The flavonols protect skin from sun damage, improve hydration and boost skin health. Its antioxidant potential protects skin from free radical damage while also preventing collagen breakdown- the protein which keeps wrinkles and sagging skin at bay. Caffeine has also been shown to reduce skin cancer. If you’re a coffee or tea drinker that’s definitely good news.
3. Improves Immunity and Brain Function
Amongst all the health benefits, perhaps the most praised is dark chocolate’s effect on brain function. Research shows that consumption of cocoa, rich in flavanols, improves the circulation of the blood in the brain.
The same may also enhance cognitive function, given its impressive magnesium content. Magnesium is essential for transforming glucose into energy which also helps the brain perform with more focus and clarity. Dark chocolate also contains theobromine and caffeine which induces good mood and improves reflexes.
4. Prevents Cardiovascular Diseases
The chemical compounds found in dark chocolate have the ability to lower the risk of cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases. It may even prevent heart disease in the long run. The flavanol content, in particular, can help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow both to the brain and heart.
Flavonols can also assist in making blood platelets less sticky which minimizes the risk on blood clots and stroke.
5. Improves Blood Circulation
Flavanols, found in dark chocolate are also known to stimulate arterial lining, producing NO- Nitric Oxide. One of its function is to induce the sensations of ease and relaxation in the arteries, which reduces the blood flow restriction. By also helping the body control blood pressure, dark chocolate may prevent the development of high or low blood pressure.
6. Good for Weight Management
A study performed at Queen Margaret University also shows how dark chocolate may affect carbohydrate metabolism and fat. It synthesizes fatty acids which helps in the absorption of fats. With the selection of the right chocolate, you may be able to control your appetite. Given its decent fiber content, dark chocolate also promotes the feeling of fullness, keeping your body nutritionally balanced for a good period of time.
Check out our review of Ultra Omega Burn, a weight loss supplement that is a good appetite suppressor as well.
Difference Between White, Milk and Dark Chocolate
Raw cacao in its natural form has very strong pungent taste coming from the flavanol content. When this gets processed into different types of chocolate, it goes through different steps to reduce this taste. The more the chocolate gets processed, the more flavanols are lost.
Dark chocolate is the purest form of cacao beans, with little or no addition of additives. Dark chocolate is what contains the highest nutritional value and gives you the true boost of chocolate and caffeine.
Milk chocolate, as the name suggests is an addition of milk and sugar in the mix of dark chocolate. The milk could be in the form of condensed, liquid or powdered milk. This is a highly processed version offering next to no benefits.
While both milk and dark chocolate are prepared from the cacao bean, white chocolate contains no cacao solids at all. Instead, white chocolate is prepared from cocoa butter, which is essentially an edible vegetable fat with the aroma of cocoa. Cocoa butter itself does not have a very nice flavor, so the addition of milk, vanilla and sugar is what actually enhances the flavor.
Healthiest Dark Chocolates
While dark chocolate may endow you with a significant amount of nutritional benefits, it always comes down to the quality of the product. To enjoy the true health benefits of dark chocolate, it is important to ensure that it is minimally processed and is in its purest form.
Look for a dark chocolate that contains more than 70% cocoa content. Although the ingredients and portion vary from one brand to the other, keep an estimate of one and a half ounce of chocolate to contain around 200 calories.
Along with its great taste, chocolate in its purest form also has some amazing health benefits. The trick is to the find the right chocolate. A pure form of dark chocolate would contain 70% cacao bean solids. If you are looking for a dark chocolate that can offer you the above mentioned benefits, get your hands on a product that contains the highest portion of dark chocolate with little addition of additives and chemical ingredients.