The Benefits of Dark Chocolate

February 14, 2024

7 Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Chocolate comes wrapped in appealing shiny wrappers that just draw you to it and then it melts in your mouth bringing waves of joy as it melts and washes over your tongue. Chocolate has been bringing delight to humanity since the times of the Maya and Aztec peoples and over one billion people enjoy it each day. But do you know the benefits that come with indulging in dark chocolate containing 70% or more cocoa?

Read on to discover interesting facts provided by our AFC team in Dalton that will help you enjoy dark chocolate guilt-free!

1. Heart Health

Life can be stressful, and stress can impact our hearts in undesirable ways. How many times have you been stressed to the hilt, grabbed that square of dark chocolate you’ve been craving, and sat down for just a few moments to regroup? Your body just might be telling you something because there are good reasons for you to opt for dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains polyphenols with flavanols that are rich in nitric oxide which relaxes blood vessels. Relaxed blood vessels increase the flow of oxygen, helping lower blood pressure and lessen stress responses. Blood that moves more efficiently through the veins and to vital organs deters blot clots, keeps platelets from becoming sticky, and helps control cholesterol.

2. Antioxidant-Rich

That touch of natural bitterness you taste in dark chocolate is attributed to elevated levels of antioxidant flavanols. The antioxidants in dark chocolate fight free radicals which are molecules that contribute to damaging cell mutations. They adversely alter DNA, unfavorably alter lipids, and trigger several human diseases. Antioxidants are desirable for their active role in preventing or delaying some types of cell damage such as the early occurrence of aging and some types of cancer by removing destructive free radicals from the body.

3. Skin Protection

The improved blood flow flavanols provide for the heart also benefit the skin through improved dermal blood flow. The improved blood flow provides for faster healing of cuts and scrapes and increases the skin’s photoprotection from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays. Over time, UV rays can lead to patchy, superficial reddening of the skin.

4. Blood Sugar Balancer

Indulging in dark chocolate isn’t just a guilty pleasure; it could also support blood sugar regulation. Epicatechin, a flavonoid found in dark chocolate, has been shown in short-term studies to support the processes that increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin. Insulin resistance is a hallmark of pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. The insulin sensitivity fostered by dark chocolate can lead to a long-term reduction of the risk of developing diabetes in the future.

5. Cholesterol

Your body produces all the bad (LDL) cholesterol it needs, so eating foods high in saturated fats, like dark chocolate can cause your body to make even more. Despite dark chocolate’s saturated fat content, it is believed that its abundance of heart-protecting flavanols offset the drawback of the saturated fat. The polyphenols in dark chocolate help limit inflammatory responses in the body and help prevent the oxidization of LDL cholesterol. Left unchecked, LDL oxidation can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis which is a buildup of plaques in the arteries.

6. Brain Health

The increased blood flow resulting from the presence of flavonoids in dark chocolate also helps the brain. Flavonoids can help deter the processes that lead to degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s while helping to improve cognition. Additionally, its neurobiological activity helps to protect and even regenerate neurons which supports memory protection.

7. Mood

Amazingly, the antioxidant polyphenols in dark chocolate do more than just help the heart, skin, and brain. They also help lower the amount of cortisol the adrenal glands produce. Cortisol is a stress-related hormone that can help modulate mood swings. Continued exposure to higher levels of cortisol and other stress hormones can disrupt nearly all the body’s processes.

A study published in January 2022 found that participants who ate 85% cocoa dark chocolate daily (10 g of chocolate each time, three times per day, at the same times each day for three weeks) experienced positively altered moods linked to the 85% dark chocolate’s prebiotic effect in the gut bacteria. So, if stress is eating at you, take a few bites of dark chocolate and see if that doesn’t help improve your mood.

Moderation is Key

One thing to keep in mind when choosing your dark chocolate is potential exposure to higher levels of lead and cadmium. In 2022 Consumer reports released the results of testing which revealed that some brands of chocolate have higher levels of these heavy metals than others, so choose your chocolate wisely.

It can be hard to believe that something as delicious as dark chocolate can have enough health benefits to be labeled as a “functional food”—but remember that moderation is key. Some suggest that as little as 1oz three times a week is enough to provide dark chocolate’s health benefits while limiting your intake of sugar and fats. So, enjoy this sweet indulgence guilt-free as part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle as you embrace its potential health benefits and savor every moment.

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