Dark chocolate dates as far back to 2000 BC. During that time, the Mayan people from Central America, the first to know the health benefits of dark chocolate, mixed it with wine and drank it as a fermented beverage.
Today, when many people hear the word chocolate, they automatically think that it is unhealthy. They scream that it should be avoided since it contains no health benefits whatsoever. While there is some truth to this, it’s not entirely true.
If there’s chocolate in which none of this is true, it would be dark chocolate. Many researchers and experts recommend eating an ounce or two each day to gain the optimal health benefits of dark chocolate.
The more processed the chocolate, the lesser amount of health benefits you’ll receive from it. This is the primary reason why raw cacao products have become so popular.
If you want to get the best health benefits of dark chocolate, you should eat the kind that has 70% – 85% or more cacao in it. Regular milk chocolate is often high in processed fat and loaded down with sugar, which is not suitable for your health.
Health Benefits Of Dark Chocolate
High in Antioxidants
Cocoa is high in certain types of flavonoids, which are found in the cacao in chocolate. Flavonoids are substances that are found in plant foods, and research shows that they act as antioxidants in the body, helping to counteract free radicals and fight disease.
Blood Pressure Benefits
Lower LDL Cholesterol
Eating dark chocolate daily has been shown to lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol. LDL is short for low-density lipoprotein. A high count of these will raise the risk of a heart attack or a stroke. Chocolate fights these LDL’s.
Can Make You Feel Happy
There are several things found in chocolate that can create happy feelings. They are:
- Tryptophan – is an amino acid that is used by the brain to create serotonin, a neurotransmitter that gives you euphoric feelings of happiness and well-being.
- Phenylethylamine (PEA) – is a chemical found in chocolate that gives you a sense of well-being. Studies have shown that PEA is effective against depression, and can help in giving you that euphoric feeling called, “runner’s high.”
- Anandamide – is another special neurotransmitter found in chocolate. It is known as the “Bliss Molecule” because it has the effect of making you feel happy.
One study done on this matter suggested that melting chocolate in your mouth produced more satisfaction than passionate kissing. This may be the reason why people reach for chocolate whenever they’re feeling depressed.
Research has shown that dark chocolate can be used to fight certain cancers. It is thought to work as a cancer fighter by reducing cellular inflammation.
Prevents Tooth Decay
Studies have shown that the theobromine found in dark chocolate can prevent tooth decay and kill the bacteria known as streptococcus mutans, which is a bacteria found in the mouth that contributes to increased cavities and rampant tooth decay.
Longer Life and Less Disease
A lengthy study done by the Dutch followed 200 men for nearly 20 years and divided them up into two separate groups – those who would eat dark chocolate every day and those who wouldn’t.
They concluded that the men who ate dark chocolate regularly had less of a chance of developing a disease and were likely to live longer as well.
Another study done on the Kuna tribe of Panama concluded similar results. The Kuna that consumed a high amount of cocoa each day had a lower chance of developing a disease and were much more likely to live longer than the Kuna, who ate no cacao or not as much.
To further strengthen these findings, the world’s longest-living person, Jeanne Louise Calment, lived until she was 122, and many of her friends and family members credited her longevity to her consumption of 2.5 lbs (1.13 kg) of dark chocolate every week.
High in Magnesium
Cacao is very high in magnesium. Magnesium is vital for the maintenance and proper functioning of the body. It helps with muscle and nerve use, helps keep blood sugar at optimal levels, and helps regulate blood pressure.
Many people don’t get enough magnesium and don’t even realize it, so including dark chocolate in your diet, each day can help with this.
There is evidence that dark chocolate can clean your arteries minutes after you ingest it. See the video below:
Countless studies have shown that eating dark chocolate can have a positive impact on your brain health. Researchers at John Hopkins University found that it can protect your brain from developing a deadly stroke. If you already had one, it can shield the nerve cells of the brain and protect them from any further damage that may ensue.
Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center also found that the health benefits of dark chocolate can also improve your memory. In a study they did, the researchers found that a chemical in chocolate known as epicatechin improved the memory of mice.
A study has shown that if it is eaten regularly it can lead to better brain function. In other words, it can be considered a nootropic because it can help in enhancing your knowledge for better reasoning, stronger memory, cognitive performance, and much more.
Further Health Benefits Of Dark Chocolate
High In Resveratrol
Resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant found in wine, has also been found in dark chocolate in significant amounts. Resveratrol combats free radicals that cause damage to the body. It also has a unique mechanism of action that may prove to have significant life extension properties.
Antioxidant resveratrol action is essential for heart health because it reduces blood pressure by opening the arteries and increasing the blood flow going through them.
If you eat it with a cocoa content of 70-85% or more, you will reap the best health benefits of dark chocolate.
A 100-gram (3.5 Ounces) bar has the following:
Calories – about 600
Carbohydrate – about 46 grams
Fat – about 43 grams
Protein – about 8 grams
Fiber – 11 grams (That is an equivalent of 36.6% – 44% of the RDI from the American Heart Association, (25 – 30 grams))
29% (0.38 mg) of the RDA for Vitamin B6
88% (1.75 mg) of the RDA for Copper
95% (1.75 mg) of the RDA for Manganese
92% (11.90) of the RDA for Iron
15% (715 mg) of the RDA for Potassium
1% (20 mg) of the RDA for Sodium
64% (228 mg) of the RDA for Magnesium
44% (308 mg) of the RDA for Phosphorus
35% (3.31 mg) of the RDA for Zinc
It also has stimulants like theobromine and caffeine that can help in losing weight.
Note: The caffeine found in 3.5 oz. of chocolate can keep you awake during the evening because it contains almost a similar amount to a cup of coffee. (80 mg compared to 95 mg in an 8 oz. cup of coffee)
Fights Against Asthma
The theobromine found in chocolate acts as a mild bronchodilator. There is a study that shows it can also stop coughing episodes.
Helps With Constipation
The magnesium seems to relax the muscles in the digestive tract, making it easier to go to the bathroom.
Boosts Athletic Performance
In a British study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition showed that eating dark chocolate as a snack may boost athletic performance.
The study claimed that dark chocolate might be similar to beetroot juice because it contained a substance called epicatechin (a flavonol). This flavonol has been shown to increase the levels of nitric oxide production.
The study used nine amateur cyclists. They were split into two different groups. One of the groups snacked daily on 40 grams of dark chocolate, and the other was given 40 grams of white chocolate daily. The study lasted two weeks, and in the interim, the two groups alternated.
The study concluded that the dark chocolate group consumed less oxygen and traveled farther in a two-minute flat-out time test.
Instead of snacking on a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar or candy for that matter, why don’t you just grab yourself some raw cacao or a dark chocolate bar?
If you want the best health benefits of dark chocolate, make sure you go with the extra dark varieties – 85% cacao or above. The extra dark types contain less sugar and more of the healthy compounds you need to experience all of the benefits above.
Also, eat it in moderation as with every other food in life. Moderation is key.
Despite what you may have heard about all chocolate being evil, disregard it because it is nothing more than a myth. Dark chocolate is a nutrition superfood.