Dark Chocolate, with more than 60 percent cocoa content, is packed with nutrients and anti-oxidants. In fact, this mouth-watering delicacy is considered to have the highest levels of antioxidants of any food. It also contains iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorous, zinc and selenium. Looking at this data, one can easily make out that there must be several dark chocolate benefits.
Dark chocolate benefits are derived from the cocoa bean
Cacao tree was prized for its medicinal properties hundreds of years ago. The Greek called cocoa Theobroma, which literally means food for Gods.
Recently, however, the researchers have again begun to look into the various health benefits of the cocoa bean. It was much later that this bean, which is one of the main ingredients in chocolate, gained popularity as a food product.
Let’s read about the various dark chocolate benefits in detail.
1. Helps to prevent cardiovascular disease
According to some recent studies, regular intake of cocoa helps prevent cardiovascular disease. In a more recent study, 470 men were tested while taking different doses of cocoa.
The study (1) concluded that cocoa consumption does lower the chances of death related to cardiovascular disease by 50 percent.
In another 2010 study, researchers discovered that having chocolate more than two times a week lowered the risk of calcified atherosclerotic plaque in the coronary arteries.
2. Good for overall cholesterol profile
One of the dark chocolate benefits includes the ability to lower oxidised LDL cholesterol in men. According to study (2), oxidised LDL cholesterol or bad cholesterol can cause damage to tissues lining the arteries of your heart.
It contains powerful antioxidants that protect lipoproteins against oxidative damage. It also increases HDL in men with elevated cholesterol.
3. Prevents depression
Theobromine, a chemical found in dark chocolate can cause a dip in blood pressure and give you a boost of energy. A crash usually follows this boost of energy.
Anandamide, another chemical found in this sweet delicacy, also provides an energy and mood boost, without any addiction. Chocolate also contains phenethylamine, a chemical that metabolises serotonin in the body.
Serotonin is a mood-regulating chemical in our body. So, if you are deficient in serotonin, dark chocolate is the cure for you.
4. High in antioxidants
Dark chocolate is an excellent source of antioxidants. It is loaded with biologically active organic compounds like polyphenols, flavanols and catechins. According to a study (3) dark chocolate contains more antioxidants than fruits like blueberries and acai berries.
5. Protects skin from the sun
Dark chocolate can prevent the damage caused by ultra-violet rays from the sun. According to research (4), flavonols present in the dark chocolate safeguard against the damage caused by the sun, increase density and hydration and improve blood flow to the skin.
MED ( minimal erythema dose) is the minimum dose of UV rays required to cause damage to the skin. According to one study (5), MED doubled for those subjects who ate dark chocolate for 12 straight weeks.
6. May lower blood pressure
Eating dark chocolate is known to help lower blood pressure. According to a recent study done at Havard which studied research done in the past, dark chocolate that contained 50 to 70 percent cocoa, helped lower the blood pressure of the participants of the study.
The flavonols present in the chocolate can stimulate the lining of the arteries to produce Nitric Oxide. This Nitric Oxide sends signals to the arteries to relax, and this reduces blood pressure.
Numerous studies have linked lower blood pressure to consumption of dark chocolate. One study, on the other hand, found no link between the two.
7. Better cognitive function
Having flavanol-rich dark chocolate is linked to increased blood from to the brain. This may help improve brain function. According to a study (6), just five days of eating high-flavanol cocoa improved blood flow to the brain.
Cocoa is also known to improve the brain function in the elderly with mental impairments. Caffeine and theobromine present in cocoa may be the reason behind the improvement in brain function.
8. High nutritional value
Dark chocolate is packed with numerous minerals. It contains iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorous, zinc and selenium. It also provides riboflavin, niacin, calcium, omega-6 fatty acids, caffeine and theobromine.
9. Controls coughs
According to a recent study, theobromine, an ingredient of cocoa, was found to be much more efficient in controlling cough than codeine. Theobromine helps calm down the vagus nerve, which when activated can trigger coughing fits.
10. May prevent cancer
Dark chocolate is also potential cancer fighting-food. Researchers at American Cancer Institute are investigating the role of flavonoids in cancer prevention.
Current research has suggested a positive impact of dark chocolate on cancer prevention, but a more detailed study is needed on the subject.
Over to you
Though there are numerous dark chocolate benefits, it is also very rich in calories. So enjoy the benefits of this superfood in moderation. Make sure you choose organic dark chocolate with more than 70 percent cocoa content.