A daily bite of dark chocolate may not only be good for your heart, but it may also improve brain function, relieve stress, and reduce your risk of diabetes. Chocolate does not have to be a sinful indulgence! The advantages of introducing dark chocolate into your diet are numerous.
According to scientific research, black chocolate – sorry, milk and white chocolate don't qualify — is high in antioxidants and minerals, making it a superfood favorite.
Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which are plant components that act as antioxidants and may have a role in cancer prevention and heart health, according to a 2016 research published in the Journal of Nutritional Science. Chocolate is manufactured from the cacao plant, which contains theobromine, a substance that may help reduce inflammation and perhaps lower blood pressure.
Cacao has far more antioxidants than green tea or red wine. The darker the chocolate, the more antioxidants it contains; nevertheless, there must be a balance between consuming tasty dark chocolate and reaping the health advantages.
Choose a bar with 70% cacao or above. Bars with lesser percentages of cacao contain more added sugar and harmful fats. And, while premium dark chocolate is a healthier choice than milk chocolate, it is still chocolate, which means it contains a lot of calories and saturated fat. Eat no more than 1 ounce (oz) of dark chocolate every day to avoid weight gain. Now, let's take a look at some of the advantages this treat provides.
An excellent source of antioxidants
Many physiologically active chemical components in chocolate act as antioxidants. Polyphenols, flavanols, and catechins are examples of these. According to study, when paired with other foods such as almonds and cocoa, the polyphenols in dark chocolate can help decrease some kinds of LDL ("bad") cholesterol.
Cocoa and chocolate have a healthy fatty acid content. The primary components of fats include oleic acid (a heart-healthy fat), stearic acid, and palmitic acid.
It's good for your skin
According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, dark chocolate contains vitamins and minerals that are healthy to your skin, such as copper, iron, magnesium, and manganese, to name a few. Manganese, for example, promotes collagen formation, a protein that keeps skin looking young and healthy. Several previous studies have revealed that the high quantities of antioxidants in dark chocolate may protect skin from the sun's intense ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
Another study found no significant protective benefits of antioxidant-rich chocolate against UV radiation, but it did demonstrate improvements in the suppleness of sun-exposed skin, while the specific mechanism is unknown.
The treat may boost your mood, improve your cognition, and prevent memory loss
It's not your imagination – studies demonstrate that eating dark chocolate with high cacao percentages, such as 70%, may enhance your brain. According to study, chocolate stimulates neuronal activity in parts of the brain connected with pleasure and reward, which reduces stress and enhances mood.
Several research have begun to elucidate how chocolate affects the brain. Eating 48 grams (g) — a little more than 1.5 oz — of 70 percent cacao organic chocolate boosted neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to establish new synaptic connections, which might improve memory, cognition, and mood, according to research presented at the 2018 Experimental Biology conference.
Furthermore, a research published in The FASEB Journal in April 2018 discovered that chocolate intake might improve memory and learning because flavonoids — the strong plant components found in cacao beans — tend to accumulate in parts of the brain responsible for such activities. A research published in Depression & Anxiety in July 2019 even connected dark chocolate intake to a lower risk of clinical depression.
While all of these findings are intriguing (particularly for those with a sweet appetite), it's important to note that bigger sample size studies are needed, and more study is needed to examine the processes involved. Keep that in mind before you go out and buy a bunch of chocolate bars. Furthermore, most research utilized far more chocolate than the recommended daily amount (1.5 oz maximum).
Improves HDL cholesterol levels
Dark chocolate is also promoted as a cholesterol-lowering food, which explains why a handful of almonds, dark chocolate, and unsweetened cocoa showed a significant drop in overweight and obese participants' low-density lipoproteins (LDL), also known as "bad" cholesterol, in a study published in November 2017 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
Dark chocolate's cocoa butter may also help to raise high-density lipoproteins (HDL), or "good" cholesterol. According to the National Library of Medicine, cocoa butter includes oleic acid, a monounsaturated lipid similar to that found in heart-healthy olive oil. However, unlike olive oil, cocoa butter is heavy in saturated fat, which when consumed in excess can be damaging to the heart, highlighting the importance of portion management.
In one small trial, consuming dark chocolate combined with flavanol lycopene was found to lower total cholesterol, LDL ("bad") cholesterol, and triglycerides considerably. Some LDL cholesterol types are more likely to oxidize, which occurs when they react with free radicals in the body. Oxidation causes LDL particles to become self-reactive, possibly causing damage to other tissues such as the lining of the arteries in the heart.
Cocoa lowers LDL that is quickly oxidized. Foods are high in strong antioxidants that can reach the circulation and protect lipoproteins from oxidative damage. Flavanols may also help to lower insulin resistance, which is yet another risk factor for heart disease and diabetes. Foods, on the other hand, include sugar, which might have the opposite impact.
Not to add that many of the research on chocolate and good cholesterol are short-term, so declaring chocolate to be a cholesterol cure-all is premature.
Dark chocolate may help to lower blood sugar levels and the risk of developing diabetes.
Eating chocolate every day may not sound like the ideal strategy to avoid diabetes, but studies have shown that eating reasonable quantities of dark chocolate high in cacao as part of a balanced diet can really enhance how the body metabolizes glucose. According to StatPearls, insulin resistance generates high blood glucose (sugar) and is the hallmark of type 2 diabetes.
The flavonoids in dark chocolate were shown to lower oxidative stress, which experts believe is the fundamental cause of insulin resistance, according to a study published in the Journal of Community and Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives in October 2017. Insulin resistance is lowered, and thus the risk of disorders such as diabetes is reduced, by boosting your body's sensitivity to insulin.
Another research, published in the journal Appetite in January 2017, found that individuals who seldom ingested chocolate had nearly double the chance of acquiring diabetes five years later when compared to people who had dark chocolate at least once per week.
While scientists believe that dark chocolate has several health advantages, further research is needed to discover whether there is a cause-and-effect link between chocolate intake and diabetes risk.
Lower your risk of heart disease
One of the most significant advantages that researchers extol is the function that dark chocolate may play in enhancing heart health. A comprehensive study and meta-analysis published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology in July 2020 discovered that consuming chocolate once a week was related with an 8% decreased risk of clogged arteries. Another big research, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in May 2021, evaluated data from over 188,000 veterans and showed that consuming around 1 oz of chocolate on a regular basis was connected with a decreased risk of coronary artery disease.
According to research, the flavonoids in dark chocolate help to preserve heart health. According to a study published in the American Journal of Physiology: Cell Physiology in March 2017, these molecules help create nitric oxide, which allows blood vessels to relax and blood pressure to drop.
Because many of these studies are observational, the results may be distorted if participants underreport their chocolate consumption. The studies are also constrained in that they cannot demonstrate direct cause and effect.
Food compounds have the capacity to combat the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. In the long term, this will result in less cholesterol remaining in the arteries, lowering the risk of heart disease. Several studies have indicated that eating flavanol-rich cocoa or chocolate can decrease blood pressure and enhance heart health.
According to a review of research, consuming chocolate three times per week lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease by 9%, with more frequent consumption diminishing the advantages.
Another study discovered that eating 45 g of chocolate per week lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease by 11%, whereas eating more than 100 g per week had no health advantages.
A meta-analysis published in Nutrients in July 2017 acknowledged the margin for error, but nevertheless concluded that chocolate was likely helpful in lowering the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Enhance brain function
Several studies have found that consuming cocoa with a high flavanol content can increase blood flow to the brain in young individuals. This helps with concentration, language learning, and memory. Cocoa flavanoids may also assist sustain cognitive function in somewhat impaired older persons, lowering the risk of dementia development.
Furthermore, cocoa includes stimulants such as caffeine and theobromine, which increase short-term brain function.
It fights free radicals and may help prevent cancer
There is limited but growing evidence that dark chocolate contains properties that may help protect against certain types of cancer. According to earlier studies, antioxidants protect our cells from harm produced by free radicals, which are unstable oxygen molecules considered to be responsible for aging and illness.
When there are too many free radicals in your body, they begin to assault your cells, which can lead to low-grade inflammation and various illnesses over time.
According to the American Cancer Society, consuming a diet high in flavonoids, such as chocolate, can help prevent cell damage, which is commonly the prelude to many malignancies. Previous study has discovered that epicatechin, one of the numerous flavonoids contained in chocolate, is thought to be responsible for its cancer-fighting qualities. According to USDA statistics, chocolate is also an excellent source of magnesium, and a research published in the journal Cell in January 2022 discovered that the body's immune cells can only target aberrant or infected cells in a magnesium-rich environment.
However, most research is restricted to animals or cell cultures, and the quantity of chocolate required to potentially prevent cancer is far greater than the daily recommended intake for people.
Chocolate is beneficial to the digestive system and may aid in weight loss.
Eating chocolate every day may appear to be the last way to lose weight, but study reveals dark chocolate may have a role in appetite regulation, which may aid in weight reduction. Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight, by neuroscientist Will Clower, PhD, shows how consuming a small amount of dark chocolate before or after meals releases hormones that tell the brain that you're full. Of course, consuming more than the suggested daily amount can negate any potential weight reduction, and dark chocolate will not negate the impacts of an overall bad diet.
Previous research has shown that chocolate functions as a prebiotic (not to be confused with probiotic), a type of fiber that encourages the growth of good bacteria in the stomach during digestion. The more "good" bacteria you have in your system, the better your body will absorb nutrients and maintain a healthy metabolism.
According to a research published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in June 2021, even milk chocolate can help with weight reduction by increasing metabolism and decreasing hunger. However, because the participant group was small (only 19 women), more study is needed to back up those results. It's also worth noting that chocolate, particularly milk chocolate, is heavy in calories and should be taken in moderation – eating more won't make you healthier.
Dark chocolate is healthy and delicious!
Aside from all of the various possible advantages, one thing is certain: dark chocolate is high in nutrients. The darker the chocolate, of course, the better, but any 70% dark chocolate or higher includes antioxidants, fiber, potassium, calcium, copper, and magnesium, according to a review published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in December 2019.
It also has a lot of calories and fat, so keep an eye on your daily consumption. Each chocolate brand is also prepared differently; Amidor believes that opting organic is always the best option because it is cultivated without the use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides (look for Rainforest Alliance Certified products). She also suggests that you constantly read the ingredient list to ensure that you're eating chocolate with fewer and more natural components.