For better or worse chocolate has become a tantalizing treat. Most people will admit that they have a weakness for chocolate, and can’t help grabbing a piece when it’s around. Who could get bored of a treat that comes in so many different varieties? But most chocolate is loaded with sugar and is far from a healthy treat.
There is good news though, chocolate can be good for you. Unfortunately, your favourite milk or white chocolate bars have no real health benefit. However, a piece or two of dark chocolate can have many health benefits.
To start off we want to clarify that not all dark chocolate is the same. Some will be better for you than others. Like other forms of chocolate, some choices are filled with sugar and are still bad for you. It all depends on the ingredients used. A good dark chocolate bar should contain 85% cocoa. All the real benefits in chocolate can be found in the cocoa. The higher amount of cocoa present, the more nutrients the chocolate contains. As a bonus, with a higher percentage of cocoa, the chocolate bar is automatically made up of less milk and sugar (the bad ingredients in chocolate).
Make an even healthier choice by going organic. European chocolate typically is better for you because of better food regulations than chocolate manufactured in the U.S.
Dark Chocolate Nutrition
You can find some of dark chocolate’s benefits right on the nutrition label. The cocoa is a good source of fibre, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, and other minerals. The nutrition label will also highlight the calories and sugar levels (a gentle reminder that chocolate should only be eaten in small quantities). Dark chocolate is also a rich source of important antioxidants (polyphenol and flavanol) that have many health benefits.
Dark Chocolate Benefits
One amazing benefit of dark chocolate is that it can improve blood flow and lower blood pressure. For people with poor circulation, this is a tasty bio-hack that will help improve your blood circulation. This is not a substitution for medications prescribed by your doctor, but it has been proven to improve circulation. While the effects on blood pressure are low, there is still improvement, and that is nothing to complain about.
Along those same lines, dark chocolate also helps blood flow to your brain. That means dark chocolate makes it easier for you to think and function more clearly.
Another health benefit dark chocolate has is on your cholesterol. Dark chocolate will help raise your HDL (good cholesterol) and lower LDL (bad cholesterol) in men with elevated cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is an important part of your heart health. While Cheerios may be one way to lower your cholesterol, dark chocolate seems to be a much tastier option.
Cocoa is also a great source of flavanol, an antioxidant that produces natural UV protection for your skin. Unfortunately, the chocolate manufacturing process can lower the levels of flavanol, which is more prominent in chocolate processed in the United States. Still, studies show that dark chocolate consumption improves your resistance to harmful UV rays.
The polyphenol found in cocoa also helps prevent inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Dark chocolate not only has polyphenols, it has a considerable amount. Studies show that cocoa contains more polyphenols than any other tested fruit or berry (including blueberries, cranberries, and pomegranates).
Dark Chocolate with a high level of cocoa is definitely of a wonder food you should have in your diet (in small doses). Savoring a piece or two is a great way to up your antioxidant intake, without suffering from the negative effect of the milk and sugar that spoil other chocolate.