This week it’s National Chocolate Week! What better excuse to enjoy a little treat. But can chocolate really be good for you and why should you choose dark chocolate over others? Dark chocolate (specifically at 70% or higher cocoa solids) is loaded with nutrients that can positively affect your health. Made from the seed of the cocoa tree, it is one of the best sources of antioxidants available and here are seven health benefits for guilt-free chocolate munching:
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Dark Chocolate is a Powerful Source of Antioxidants
Dark chocolate is loaded with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants. These include polyphenols, flavanols, catechins, among others. Antioxidants protect your cells against the effects of free radicals — molecules produced when your body breaks down food or is exposed to tobacco smoke and radiation.
Dark Chocolate May Improve Blood Flow and Lower Blood Pressure
The flavanols in dark chocolate can stimulate the lining of arteries, to produce the gas Nitric Oxide. 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.
Dark Chocolate is Very Nutritious
As long as the dark chocolate you choose contains 70% or more cocoa it will be a great source of fibre, iron, magnesium, copper and manganese plus it also contains plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium. Obviously all these nutrients come with high calories and moderate amounts of sugar so it’s important that the dark chocolate is consumed in moderation.
Dark Chocolate Raises ‘good cholesterol’ and Protects ‘bad cholesterol’ Against Oxidation
Eating dark chocolate can improve several important risk factors for heart disease. In a controlled trial, cocoa powder was found to significantly decrease oxidised LDL (low density lipoprotein, often referred to as ‘bad cholesterol’) cholesterol in men. It also increased HDL (high density lipoprotein, often referred to as ‘good cholesterol’) and lowered total LDL in men with elevated cholesterol. Cocoa contains an abundance of powerful antioxidants that make it into the bloodstream and protect lipoproteins against oxidative damage. Dark chocolate can also reduce insulin resistance, which is another common risk factor for many diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
Dark Chocolate May 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 your arteries and we should see a lower risk of heart disease over the long term.There are a number of long-term observational studies that show a significant improvement to support this.
In a study of 470 elderly men, cocoa was found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular death by 50% over a 15 year period. Another study revealed that eating chocolate 2 or more times a week lowered the risk of having calcified plaque in the arteries by 32%. A further study showed that chocolate 5+ times per week lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease by 57%. As these studies are observational based they can not be taken as proof that it was the chocolate that caused the risk reduction however given that we have a biological mechanism (lower blood pressure and oxidised LDL) then it seems very plausible that regularly eating dark chocolate can reduce the risk of heart disease.
Dark Chocolate May Protect Your Skin Against The Sun
Studies show that the flavanols from cocoa can improve blood flow to the skin and protect it against sun-induced damage. The flavonols can also improve blood flow to the skin and increase skin density and hydration.
Dark Chocolate May Improve Brain Function
One study of healthy volunteers showed that 5 days of consuming high-flavanol cocoa improved blood flow to the brain.
Cocoa may also significantly improve cognitive function in elderly people with mental impairment. It also improves verbal fluency and several risk factors for disease.
Cocoa also contains stimulant substances like caffeine and theobromine, which may be a key reason cocoa can improve brain function in the short term.
At NatureDoc Shop, we have selected a range of fantastic raw chocolate products including OmBar’s scrumptious buttons and bars plus the Raw Chocolate Company’s scrumptious chocolate covered goji berries and mulberries. They’re the perfect size for a little treat plus you get the added benefits of the power packed berries in the these little bitesize tasties.
These little beauties have been used in Chinese medicine for more than 6,000 years. Goji berries can help boost the immune system and brain activity, protect against heart disease and cancer, and improve life expectancy. Goji berries contain vitamin C, vitamin B2, vitamin A, iron, selenium and other antioxidants (notably polysaccharides).
Perhaps less well known compared to goji berries but these little berries host a number of health benefits including their ability to improve digestive health, lower cholesterol, aid in weight loss, increase circulation, build bone tissues, boost the immune system, prevent certain cancers, slow down the aging process, lower blood pressure, protect eye health, and improve the overall metabolism of the body.
As you can see there’s a considerable amount of evidence that dark chocolate can provide powerful health benefits and this is why we selected the best quality chocolate to offer through NatureDoc Shop to ensure whether buying for yourself or as a gift that the delicious little treat is ‘guilt-free’!