dark chocolate health benefits

Dark Chocolate Health Benefits

Dark chocolate health benefits include the ability to reduce stress levels and mood. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, serotonin and anandamide.

Choose a dark chocolate with 70% cocoa or more to get the most heart-healthy flavanols. Flavanols help produce nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels and improves circulation. They also increase insulin sensitivity, which may lower the risk of diabetes.

1. Rich in Flavanols

Eating a small amount of dark chocolate can provide you with flavanols, a type of plant chemical that has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Other plants rich in flavonoids include tea, red wine and certain fruits.

These chemicals appear to improve blood flow and lower cholesterol, which reduces the risk of heart disease. The same chemicals also appear to reduce the level of C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation, in the blood.

Another health benefit of dark chocolate is that it stimulates activity in the parts of the brain associated with pleasure and reward, which decreases stress and enhances mood. It may even improve cognitive function, but more research is needed.

It’s important to choose the right dark chocolate. Look for high levels of cocoa, which is indicative of a higher flavanol content. But also check the label for a list of ingredients. You should avoid chocolate made with milk or soy, which can trigger food allergies in some people.

2. Rich in Theobromine

Dark chocolate contains the chemical theobromine, which, like caffeine, can give you a slight boost of energy. It also stimulates the brain to release the feel-good hormone phenethylamine, which can improve mood and attention.

Regular chocolate consumption is also good for the heart: It improves blood flow and decreases oxidization of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, both of which are risk factors for heart disease. It also increases insulin sensitivity, which can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Cocoa flavanols can also protect the skin from sun damage by increasing blood flow to the skin and enhancing hydration and skin density. One June 2018 human clinical trial found that eating flavanol-rich chocolate significantly improved contrast sensitivity and visual acuity after UVB light exposure.

When shopping for a healthy dark chocolate, look for one with a cocoa percentage of 50%-90% and choose a brand that lists sugar as the first ingredient, rather than the second or third. Many store-bought chocolates contain the emulsifier lecithin, which is often derived from soy and may trigger a soy allergy in sensitive individuals.

3. Rich in Caffeine

Chocolate, especially the dark varieties, contains a small amount of caffeine. Generally, the more cocoa solids in a piece of dark chocolate, the higher the caffeine content. One ounce of dark chocolate with 70% to 85% cocoa solids has about 12 milligrams of caffeine. In comparison, a cup of brewed coffee has about 95 milligrams.

Aside from delivering a natural energy boost, the flavanols in cocoa help balance the immune system and reduce oxidative stress that may contribute to chronic disease. Theobromine is another component that enhances the action of flavanols, promoting healthy blood vessels and lowering cholesterol.

For the best results, limit your dark chocolate intake to just a few pieces each week. Also, choose a dark chocolate labeled as fair-trade to ensure that the cocoa was grown and harvested using fair wages and without child labor. This will give you peace of mind that your chocolate is helping to improve the lives of the people who produce it for your enjoyment.

4. Rich in Iron

For many people, chocolate is a beloved treat. But milk and white chocolate come with a heavy dose of sugar, and they’re often not healthy options. Dark chocolate, on the other hand, is a source of antioxidants and iron. It’s important to choose a dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa solids to get the health benefits.

Antioxidants, like those found in flavanols in chocolate, help stop unstable molecules called free radicals from damaging cells. Eating a diet rich in antioxidants can help prevent heart disease, cancers, Type 2 diabetes and other long-term conditions.

Cocoa beans and dark chocolate contain a heart-healthy fat called oleic acid, as well as stearic and palmitic acids. These fats have a neutral effect on cholesterol levels, and are healthier than the saturated fats in most other foods. However, most dark chocolates still contain moderate amounts of calories and sugar and should be consumed in moderation. Make sure to choose chocolate that is labeled “fair trade” to ensure that the cocoa beans were grown and harvested using sustainable methods that pay workers a decent wage.

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