5 Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is full of nutrients that can positively affect your health. Made from the seed of the cocoa tree, it’s one of the best sources of antioxidants on the earth. Studies has shown that dark chocolate (not the sugary crap) can improve health and lower the risk of heart disease.
1. Dark Chocolate is Very Nutritious
If you buy high quality dark chocolate with sufficient amount of cocoa content, then it is the best.
It contains a decent amount of soluble fiber and is full with minerals.
100 gram bar of dark chocolate with 70-85% cocoa roughly contains:
•11 grams of fiber.
•67% of the RDA for Iron
•58% of the RDA for Magnesium
•89% of the RDA for Copper
•98% of the RDA for Manganese
•Also it has plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium
Of course, 100 grams / 3.5 ounces is a fairly large amount and not something you should be consuming daily. All these nutrients also come with 600 calories and allot of sugar.
For this reason, dark chocolate is best consumed in moderation.
The fatty acid profile of cocoa and dark chocolate is excellent. The fats are mostly saturated and monounsaturated, with small amounts of polyunsaturates.
It also contains stimulants like caffeine and theobromine, but is unlikely to keep you awake at night as the amount of caffeine is very small compared to coffee.
👉🏻Quality dark chocolate is rich in Fiber, Iron, Magnesium, Copper, Manganese and a few other minerals.
2. Dark Chocolate is a Powerful Source of Antioxidants
Have you ever heard of a measure called ORAC?
ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. It is a measure of the antioxidant activity of foods.
Basically, researchers pit a bunch of free radicals (bad) against a sample of food and see how well the antioxidants in the food can “disarm” them.
The biological relevance of this metric is questioned, because it’s done in a test tube and may not have the same effect in the body.
However, I think it is worth mentioning that raw, unprocessed cocoa beans are among the highest scoring foods that have been tested.
Dark chocolate is loaded with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants. These include polyphenols, flavanols, catechins, among others.
One study showed that cocoa and dark chocolate contained more antioxidant activity, polyphenols and flavanols than other fruits they tested, which included blueberries and Acai berries.
👉🏻Cocoa and dark chocolate have a wide variety of powerful antioxidants, way more than most other foods.
3. Dark Chocolate Can Improve Blood Flow and Lower Blood Pressure
The flavanols in dark chocolate can stimulate the endothelium, the lining of arteries, to produce Nitric Oxide , which is a gas.
One of the functions of Nitric Oxide is to send signals to the arteries to relax, which lowers resistance to blood flow and therefore reduces blood pressure.
There are many controlled trials showing that cocoa and dark chocolate can improve blood flow and lower blood pressure, but the effects are usually mild.
However, there is also one study in people with elevated blood pressure that showed no effect, so take all this with a grain of salt.
👉🏻The bioactive compounds in cocoa can improve blood flow in the arteries and cause a small but statistically significant decrease in blood pressure.
4. Dark Chocolate Can Lower The Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
The compounds in dark chocolate appear to be highly protective against the oxidation of LDL.
In the long term, this should cause much less cholesterol to lodge in the arteries and we should see a lower risk of heart disease over the long term.
It turns out that we have several long-term observational studies that show a fairly drastic improvement.
In a study of 470 elderly men, cocoa was found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular death by a whopping 51% over a 15 year period.
Another study revealed that eating chocolate 2 or more times per week lowered the risk of having calcified plaque in the arteries by 33%. Eating chocolate less frequently had no effect.
Yet another study showed that chocolate 5+ times per week lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease by 55% .
Of course, these 3 studies are so-called observational studies that can not prove that it was the chocolate that caused the reduction in risk.
However, given that we have a biological mechanism (lower blood pressure and oxidized LDL) then I find it plausible that regular consumption of dark chocolate can in fact reduce the risk of heart disease.
👉🏻Observational studies show a drastic reduction in heart disease risk for the people who consume the most chocolate.
5. Dark Chocolate Can Protect Your Skin Against The Sun
The bioactive compounds in dark chocolate may also be great for your skin.
The flavonols can protect against sun-induced damage, improve blood flow to the skin and increase skin density and hydration.
The minimal erythemal dose (MED) is the minimum amount of UVB rays required to cause redness in the skin, 24 hours after exposure.
In one study of 30 people, the MED more than doubled after consuming dark chocolate high in flavanols for 12 weeks.
If you’re planning on a beach vacation, consider loading up on dark chocolate in the prior weeks and months.
👉🏻Studies show that the flavanols from cocoa can improve blood flow to the skin and protect it against sun-induced damage.