The Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is a type of chocolate made from cocoa solids and cocoa butter. It is also known as black chocolate, semisweet chocolate, or bitter chocolate. While many people love the taste of dark chocolate, few realize just how good it is for your health.
For centuries, people have been consuming dark chocolate for its medicinal properties. Dark chocolate is loaded with beneficial nutrients, antioxidants, and minerals that can have a positive impact on your overall health. From heart health to boosting your brainpower, dark chocolate is a superfood that you don’t want to miss out on. In this article, we will answer the top-asked questions, clarify common misconceptions, and explore the incredible benefits of dark chocolate.
Is Dark Chocolate Good for You?
Dark chocolate has been touted as a healthy food choice for quite some time now, thanks to the various health benefits it provides. However, it is important to note that not all dark chocolate is created equal. Before you buy a bar of chocolate, understand the difference between high-quality and low-quality dark chocolate to make sure you receive all the various health benefits dark chocolate has to offer.
Low-Quality Vs. High-Quality Dark Chocolate
Low-quality dark chocolate is often made with low-grade cacao beans, which can have a bitter and unpleasant taste. To mask this bitterness, manufacturers often add high amounts of sugar, artificial flavors, and various additives. This makes the chocolate sweeter and less intense in flavor, but lacking in health benefits. Low-quality dark chocolate can also be made with a higher percentage of cacao butter, which dilutes the cacao content and reduces its nutritional value.
High-quality dark chocolate, on the other hand, is made with high-grade cacao beans, which offer a more complex and rich flavor. It also contains less sugar and fewer additives, making it a healthier option. High-quality dark chocolate is typically made with a higher percentage of cacao, often ranging from 70-90%, which provides numerous health benefits further explained in this article.
Understanding the Cocoa Percentage
If you’re a chocolate lover, you may have noticed the percentage printed on the packaging of your favorite chocolate bar. But what does that percentage actually mean? The cocoa percentage refers to the amount of cocoa product in a chocolate bar. Cocoa solids are what give dark chocolate its unique flavor and aroma. The percentage is calculated by dividing the weight of cocoa mass by the total weight of the chocolate. For example, a bar of chocolate that weighs 100 grams and has a 70% cocoa percentage contains 70 grams of cocoa and 30 grams of other ingredients, such as sugar, milk, and flavorings.
Dark Chocolate Nutrition
Dark chocolate is rich in a variety of nutrients, including iron, copper, magnesium, and fiber. Just one ounce of dark chocolate (containing at least 70% cocoa) provides 11% of your daily recommended intake of fiber and 58% of magnesium. When considering the nutritional content of dark chocolate, it is important to note that the quality and percentage of cocoa can vary among brands. Generally, dark chocolate ingredients include cocoa, sugar, and cocoa butter, and sometimes milk. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the lower the sugar content and the higher the amount of antioxidants and minerals such as iron and magnesium. In fact, one of the greatest health appeals to dark chocolate lovers is the extensive iron in dark chocolate.
Dark Chocolate Antioxidants
Antioxidants are natural compounds that help protect your cells from free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage your cells and contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Antioxidants work by neutralizing free radicals and preventing them from causing harm to your cells. Dark chocolate is one of the best sources of antioxidants. It is rich in flavonoids, which are a type of antioxidant that can help reduce inflammation and improve blood flow. The particular antioxidants in dark chocolate can help to neutralize harmful molecules and prevent damage.
Reduces Inflammation and Boosts Brain Function
Dark chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, two compounds that can help to improve brain function and mood. Studies have also shown that dark chocolate may help to improve cognitive function in older adults. The antioxidants in dark chocolate can help to reduce inflammation in the body, which is a contributing factor to many chronic diseases. By reducing inflammation, dark chocolate may help to improve overall health and prevent disease.
Lowers Risk of Heart Disease
According to the American Heart Association, recent studies have shown promising results indicating that consuming dark chocolate may aid in decreasing the risk of heart disease. This is due to the high concentration of flavanols, a type of antioxidant found in cocoa beans used to make chocolate. Flavanols have been found to improve the function of the endothelium, and the inner lining of blood vessels, and reduce blood pressure. The flavanols in dark chocolate have also been linked to decreased levels of LDL cholesterol, which is a major contributing factor in the development of heart disease. While these findings are promising, it is important to note that moderation is key, as excessive consumption of chocolate can lead to weight gain and other health issues. With moderation, however, dark chocolate can help to improve blood flow, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of blood clots.
Boosts Your Mood
Dark chocolate contains a range of compounds that have been shown to have positive effects on mental health. One of these compounds is phenylethylamine, which is known to stimulate the release of endorphins, the feel-good chemicals in your brain. Eating dark chocolate can therefore give you a quick burst of happiness and pleasure. Dark chocolate also contains flavonoids, which are antioxidants that have been linked to improved cognitive function and a reduced risk of depression. Studies have shown that consuming flavonoid-rich foods, such as dark chocolate, can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and improve mood.
Dark Chocolate is Great for Your Skin
As mentioned, dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Its antioxidants make dark chocolate a powerful weapon against aging. It helps in neutralizing free radicals, reducing the appearance of fine lines, sun damage, wrinkles, and age spots, leaving you with younger-looking, glowing skin. Dark chocolate also contains healthy fats that are excellent for hydrating your skin. These healthy fats create a protective barrier that helps in retaining moisture, keeping your skin soft and supple. Collagen is essential for maintaining the elasticity of your skin. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids that can stimulate collagen production, improving skin elasticity and preventing sagging skin. Dark chocolate also has a high concentration of vitamins and minerals such as copper, iron, and magnesium that can improve skin texture. These nutrients help in cell renewal, reducing the appearance of scars, and leaving your skin looking healthy and smooth.
How Much Dark Chocolate Should You Eat?
While the health benefits of dark chocolate are impressive, it is important to remember that it is still a high-calorie food. One ounce of Amano’s dark chocolate contains around 170 calories, so consuming too much can lead to weight gain. The general consensus among health experts is that consuming 1-2 ounces of dark chocolate per day is a reasonable amount. This equates to around 30-60 grams or one to two small squares of chocolate. It is also important to choose high-quality dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa. Milk chocolate, on the other hand, contains less cocoa solids and more sugar and milk, which can negate the health benefits.
Dark chocolate is not only a delicious treat, but it also has numerous health benefits. It is a nutritious food that contains powerful antioxidants, which can help protect against oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Additionally, studies have shown that consuming dark chocolate can improve heart health by reducing blood pressure, improving blood flow, and reducing the risk of heart disease. So, next time you indulge in one of your favorite artisan dark chocolate bars, you can enjoy it even more knowing that it is not just a guilty pleasure, but also a nutritious one.
No comment yet, add your voice below!