Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Advertisement

Not All Chocolate is Created Equal!

There’s chocolate and then there’s Chocolate! Not all chocolate is created equal. The type of chocolate being discussed in this article is nothing like the sugary confections you find in candy stores, and on grocery store shelves, which consist of nothing but empty calories. 

Often, the run of the mill chocolate bars sold in most American grocery stores are made with unhealthy refined sugars, milk fats, and hydrogenated oils.These unhealthy ingredients are masking the dark, healthy chocolate, that is filled with antioxidants such as Flavonoids, Polyphenols, and amino acids that contribute to our overall health and well being.

Healthy Chocolate Defined

As the concept of healthy chocolate gains momentum in the United States, many chocolate manufacturers strive to combine the best qualities of dark chocolate with those of other health foods. The resulting mixture contains a high-powered blast of antioxidants known as Flavonoids that have a myriad of proven health benefits including anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anti-cancer properties. What makes healthy chocolate different from the kind of chocolate you find within candy bar wrappers?

  • First, there are no sugars, milk fats, or hydrogenated oils in healthy dark chocolate bars.
  • Second, this dark chocolate has not been subjected to what is called the “Dutch Process“, whereby an alkali is introduced that all but destroys the antioxidants. Rather, it is cold pressed to preserve cocoa’s inherent antioxidant and nutrient composition.
  • Third, it is often combined with Acai berries and blueberries to further boost its antioxidant properties – so much so that some dark chocolate brands give you the equivalent of a half-pound of spinach or three-quarters of a pound of broccoli in one small nugget.
  • Fourth, healthy dark chocolate contains no trans fat, wax, or fillers.

Dark Chocolate Linked To Healthy Weight Loss

To most of us it seems counter-intuitive to think of chocolate as a central component of a healthy weight loss plan. But healthy dark chocolate – chocolate free of additives, sugar, and milk fat – can help you lose weight. Eating a nugget of dark chocolate, followed by a glass of water about a half hour before a meal, can help reduce hunger and increase blood sugar levels, which helps reduce cravings and the urge to overeat. You’ll eat less at each meal and get a boost of nutrients in the process. Similarly, eating a nugget of dark chocolate for dessert, or as a snack, is a healthy alternative to eating more calorie-heavy foods.The bottom line is that you can incorporate a moderate amount of healthy dark chocolate into your diet plan without feeling guilty about it.

Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate


Raw chocolate, or Cocoa, is believed to have originated in Mexico, more than 3,500 years old. The ancient Mayans referred to this chocolate as “Food of The Gods” and created a chocolate drink that was only consumed during important religious ceremonies. Of course, the chocolate of the Mayans was far different than what we refer to as chocolate today. Theirs was a spicy and bitter mixture of cocoa paste, chili peppers, cinnamon, turmeric and a host of other seasonings. The ancient Mayans believed that their sacred beverage, called “xocolati”, had the ability to increase one’s life energy and thus was served to royalty/Gods in order to prolong their days on earth. 

Though our desire for chocolate is nothing new the recent fascination with the health benefits of chocolate is a phenomenon that has helped shine a new light on this ancient food. Through a series of recent scientific studies we have learned the true extent of cocoa’s health benefits, particularly its antioxidant potential which begs the question, “Where the ancient Mayans right about the power of chocolate?”

Scientific Studies About The Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

  • Scientists at Cornell University and Seoul National University examined the cancer-fighting antioxidant content of cocoa, red wine, and tea, and found that cocoa had nearly double the antioxidants of red wine and four times the antioxidants found in tea.
  • Holland’s National Institute of Public Health and Environment found that dark chocolate contains 53.5 mg of Catechins per 100 grams. (Catechins are the powerful antioxidants that fight against cancer and help prevent heart disease). By contrast, a cup of black tea contains only about 14 mg of Catechins and green tea has about 30 mg of Catechins.
  • A study at University of California Davis found that participants who ate dark chocolate, on a regular basis, showed a reduction in platelet activity. This means that dark chocolate has an anti-clotting, blood-thinning effect that can be compared to that of aspirin.
  • A Harvard University study of 8,000 individuals, with an average age of 65, revealed that those who consumed dark chocolate, regularly, lived almost a year longer than those who did not. Participants who ate one to two dark chocolate bars per month had a 36% lower risk of sudden death (compared to the people who ate no dark chocolate), while those who ate three or more dark chocolate bars per week had a 16% lower risk of sudden death.
  • A study of older men in the Netherlands, known for its dark chocolate consumption, showed that those who ate the most dark chocolate, an equivalent of one-third of a chocolate bar every day, had lower blood pressures and a 50% lower risk of sudden death. The researchers also noted that the men eating the most cocoa products were not heavier than the men who ate less cocoa products.
  • And it’s not just dark chocolate that offers us a unique set of health benefits. Some of the most recent studies regarding chocolate include good news for milk chocolate lovers. The Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia conducted a study that concluded, “milk chocolate boosts brainpower”. The groups in the study consumed, on different occasions, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, carob and nothing. Then they were tested for cognitive performance including memory, attention span, reaction time, and problem solving ability. According to Dr. Bryan Raudenbush, “Composite scores for verbal and visual memory were significantly higher for milk chocolate consumers than the other conditions.” The study also found that consumption of milk chocolate and dark chocolate was associated with improved impulse control and reaction time.
  • Dark chocolate truly does make us feel good, too. Dark chocolate is known to stimulate the secretion of endorphins, producing a pleasurable sensation similar to the “runner’s high” joggers experience. Dark chocolate also contains the neurotransmitter, Serotonin, that acts as an anti-depressant. Studies in England show that even the aroma of chocolate gives a bout of euphoria and can help lift the spirits.
  • And now scientists are looking at dark chocolate for skin care. According to Marlies Spinale, director of Tru Spa, “Like many other antioxidants, cocoa polyphenols are thought to offer the skin protection from free-radical damage caused by sun, pollution, stress, alcohol consumption and other factors.
  • Often certain people avoid dark chocolate, or chocolate altogether, because one of the main ingredients of dark chocolate is cocoa butter. Despite contrary belief, cocoa butter is not an unhealthy fat. Cocoa butter is made up of the beneficial fatty acids– Oleic acid (a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil), and Stearic and Palmitic acids. Stearic and Palmitic acids are healthy forms of saturated fat.

Plus, healthy dark chocolate also contains vitamins A, B1, C, D, and E, as well as Potassium, Sodium, and Iron. So, go ahead and indulge in a little dark chocolate today, in moderation of course!

Photo Courtesy of: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dark_chocolate_Blanxart.jpg

Advertisement

Paulin Soleyman
Paulin Soleyman is the founder and editor of The Underground Bootcamp. Her goal is to help everyday people live healthier, happier, more fulfilling lives by sharing all that she knows about healthy living, nutrition, and fitness.
Paulin Soleyman

Comments

  1. E Steve K says

    Unfortunately, a lot of chocolate companies are adding milk fat to their dark chocolate. So, it’s hard to find dark chocolate without milk fat.

    From what I’ve read, it appears that the benefits of acai berries has been overhyped. Stick with blueberries.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>