When one thinks of eating a healthier diet usually the first thing to go is candy and other sweets, but thanks to dark chocolate those days are over. All chocolates are made from cocoa beans.
What makes dark chocolate a healthier choice over milk chocolate and white chocolate is the higher concentration of seeds used to produce it. The seeds are what contain all the chemicals the human body reaps rewards from.
Recent studies have shown that when eaten in moderation, dark chocolate provides numerous health benefits in many different areas of the body without the guilt that is usually associated with eating sweets.
Eating a square or two of dark chocolate a few times a week can have a tremendous effect on heart health. One of the many beneficial things that dark chocolate contains is an antioxidant compound called flavonoids. These chemicals help to keep veins and arteries loose and flexible. This in turn helps the blood to flow easily, keeping blood pressure down. The improved blood flow also helps to prevent the formation of blood clots by keeping platelets from clumping. It is this clumping that can lead to a heart attack. It also reduces hardening of the arteries. Dark chocolate has also been shown to lower LDL, or the ‘bad cholesterol’ while boosting levels of HDL, or ‘good cholesterol.’
Just as dark chocolate helps increase blood flow to the heart, it also increases the flow of blood to the brain. This not only helps to improve cognitive functions, but also reduces the risk of having a stroke. A flavonoid called epicatechin has possibly shown that it protects the brain after it suffers a stroke by increasing the signals to cells that protect nerve cells from damage.
Regular consumption can also help with mental health. One chemical contained in dark chocolate is phenylethylamine (PEA). The brain naturally produces this chemical when a person is falling in love. It stimulates the release of endorphins the brain normally produces that make a person happy. The natural caffeine contained in dark chocolate helps to keep the brain alert and focused aiding in improved productivity.
It may seem to come out of right field to talk about the benefits of eating what is considered a candy to help with type 2 diabetes, but dark chocolate can do just that. Dark chocolate has a low glycemic index so it won’t cause the huge spikes in blood sugar levels that typically occur when sweets are ingested. The flavonoids found in it also help to reduce insulin resistance allowing the body to use insulin efficiently. It is the inefficient use of insulin that causes the body to have the reactions that type 2 diabetics deal with.
Full of Antioxidants
Antioxidants are an essential part of every healthy diet. They help to rid the body of the free radicals that cause cell damage, speed up the aging process and are thought to be the cause of the formation of cancer cells. There is no escape from free radicals as even the act of just breathing introduces them to the body. Dark chocolate is full of compounds that function as antioxidants. These include flavanols, polyphenols and catechins. One study showed that dark chocolate contained more of these compounds than blueberries and Acai berries.
High in Vitamins and Minerals
Dark chocolate contains many highly concentrated vitamins and minerals such as potassium, iron, copper and magnesium. The copper and potassium are useful to the body for cardiovascular health. The magnesium helps to ward off type 2 diabetes, while the iron prevents anemia. Dark chocolate also contains good amounts of vitamins A, B1, C, D and E. There is a decent amount of soluble fiber contained in dark chocolate helping to keep the digestive tract regular. Unlike other forms of chocolate, the fats found in dark chocolate are of the healthy group of saturated and mono-saturated kinds. These are easier for the body to break down and use as opposed to unsaturated fats.
Dark chocolate contains an alkaloid called theobromine. This chemical has been shown to work almost as well as codeine when it comes to suppressing coughs. It is thought to subdue activity in the vagus nerve. This nerve is located in the collarbone area and is responsible for the physiological action of coughing. Dark chocolate suppresses this nerve without any of the side effects of traditional medication.
For centuries, cultures in both Europe and South America have used cocoa leaves to treat bouts of diarrhea. Scientists have discovered that the flavonoids contained in cocoa bind themselves to the proteins in the small intestine that are responsible for regulating the secretion of fluid. This reduction in fluid allows bile to congeal and possibly stop diarrhea affliction. The added benefit of the chocolate’s fiber content helps to keep movement in the intestines flowing normally.
Menstruation and Pregnancy
The high magnesium levels in dark chocolate aid in the absorption of calcium. This absorption helps to reduce menstrual cramping. It also allows the uterus to relax thus lowering premature pregnancy cramping. Magnesium is also helpful in reducing symptoms of morning sickness such as nausea and vomiting. The lower blood pressure aided by dark chocolate is important for pregnant women. Considering most women crave chocolate during these times, dark chocolate proves to be very rewarding.
In addition to helping relieve coughs, theobromine also helps harden tooth enamel. Some studies show that it is more effective than fluoride. When used alongside proper dental hygiene, eating dark chocolate can lower the risk of cavities and in turn make trips to the dentist more pleasant.
As if there weren’t enough great qualities about dark chocolate, it can also help to reduce stress and anxiety. The natural chemicals in dark chocolate stimulate endorphin production, which is the ‘feel-good’ chemical produced in the brain. Dark chocolate also possesses serotonin, a chemical that behaves as an anti-depressant. These work together to suppress the effects of the stress hormone cortisol on the body. Cortisol is considered the ‘stress hormone’ because when the body is in ‘fight or flight’ mode, it is secreted in high levels. For people prone to anxiety, cortisol proves to be a formidable foe.
As well as create stress cortisol causes the body to have a tendency to retain weight, especially around the mid-section. So reducing the levels of cortisol can have a large effect on overall weight. Dark chocolate is also more satisfying than other chocolates and therefore takes care of cravings faster and in a healthier fashion than other junk food options.
It may seem strange to look to food for protection from the sun’s rays, but studies have shown that regular consumption of dark chocolate can do just that. Researchers studied the minimal erythemal dose (MED), which is the lowest level of UVB rays needed to turn skin red 24 hours after exposure. They found that eating dark chocolate could raise the MED level by absorbing UV light. While it should not be used in place of sunscreen, it can offer an added line of protection against sun damage.
Due to the high caloric content in dark chocolate, it is unadvised to eat it in large quantities. But just by adding a small amount (about four bars a week) to the diet on a regular basis, huge rewards can be obtained. Dark chocolate should be about 70% cocoa allowing for an abundance of benefits while only ingesting small portions. There is no sweeter way to improve health.
Sweet Pete’s Dark Chocolate
Now that you know the many health benefits of dark chocolate come try some of our delectable dark chocolate treats from the world famous Sweet Pete’s candy store.