Anything with chocolate has been considered bad for you for so long. And yes if eaten in huge amounts, the sugar, fat and other less desirables are always going to have long term effects but what about in moderation- is dark chocolate actually good for you? Could munch on the dark stuff help you at all?
Here Are a Few Dark Chocolate Benefits supported by Research.
The main ingredient in dark chocolate in cocoa, and judging by recent studies the higher the cocoa percentage in your bar the better it may be for you.
Cocoa is full of nutrients but especially flavanols which increases our arteries’ elasticity and reduces the rate of insulin resistance. A study from 2014 found that dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to damaged arteries as well.
All this results in more room for blood to flow through our arteries and prevents white blood cells from sticking to the walls of all our blood vessels meaning less artery-clogging.
However, don’t be reaching for that mass-produced bar of dark chocolate just yet as the same study noted that over-processing of the coca can destroy the flavanols and reduce the effect they have. So look out on packets for a more naturally made chocolate.
Cocoa contains antioxidants (flavanols) which are probably good for you. Several studies and systematic reviews have found it to have a small effect on cardiovascular health and blood pressure. Flavanols in cocoa beans have antioxidant effects that reduce cell damage implicated in heart disease.
In 2010, Harvard Medical School Health reported 15 experiments and clinical trials suggested that chocolates that are cocoa-rich can reduce the inflammation related to heart disease, lowering blood pressure and reducing plaque adhesions that contribute to strokes and heart attacks, while at the same time increasing “good” cholesterol levels (HDL).In fact, several long-term observational studies show fairly drastic improvement.
An additional study of 470 elderly men, cocoa was found to reduce the risk of death from heart disease over a 15 year period by a whopping 50%. Another study revealed that eating dark chocolate two or more times per week lowered the risk of having calcified plaque in the arteries by 32%.
However, eating chocolate less frequently had no effect. Yet another study showed that eating dark chocolate more than 5 times per week lowered the risk of heart disease by 57%.
Of course, these three studies are observational studies, so they can’t prove that it was the chocolate that reduced the risk but the compounds in dark chocolate appear to be highly protective against the oxidation of LDL (bad cholesterol).
It sounds mad, but cocoa has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. So dark chocolate – in moderation – might delay or prevent the onset of diabetes whilst regulating glucose levels in the body.
The antioxidants in dark chocolate help the body use its insulin more efficiently to help control blood sugar, this, in turn, helps lower blood sugar levels naturally and actually helps your body use your insulin, as a result, it help decrease your insulin resistance a common issue with type 2 diabetics.
Dark chocolate also helps in protein regulation and it improves metabolism. A study done in 2015 showed that patients with type 2 diabetes who ate 25 g of dark chocolate for 8 weeks had lower blood sugar on fasting blood tests. Although health professionals have cited that this and similar studies are only short terms and more work needs to be done to see long term effects.
Reduces Risk of Stroke/Blood Pressure
The health benefits of eating a moderate amount of dark chocolate don’t stop with the heart or diabetes outcomes but also with lowering of blood pressure and because of this reduces the risk of strokes.
Researchers in Australia gathered data on 2013 people who had metabolic syndrome-a cluster of medical conditions known to affect long term health outcomes such as high blood pressure, being overweight and low levels of “good” cholesterol- used a mathematical equations to predict how eating dark chocolate daily could affect the number of strokes and heart attacks the group would be expected to have.
Based on the results, the researchers calculated that for every 10,000 people with metabolic syndrome who ate 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate every day for 10 years, 70 non-fatal and 15 fatal cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks or strokes could be prevented. Flavonoids are known to have antihypertensive and anti-inflammatory effects, which relieve pressures on the heart. So tuck in and enjoy the dark stuff.
Eating chocolate and good skin is not something we usually hear. But numerous research has shown eating dark chocolate can help with several common skin conditions.
According to research eating dark chocolate gives you smoother skin texture, helps protect against UV rays – with a 25% reduction in redness when exposed to the sun, reduces dark spots and pigmentation, keeps skin moisture locked in, improves collagen content- so no need for injections, has essential skin minerals which keep it looking younger and increases cell healing and lightens scars and blemishes.
Dark chocolate is a great go-to when feeling sick as a sweet pick me up but new research proves it’s a more effective method of treatment than traditional cough syrups.
A European wide study of over the counter cough remedies versus a new medicine containing cocoa was found to have a significant improvement in their cough and as a result their sleeplessness within two days. Researchers claim it’s because cocoa has properties that relieve inflammation or irritation, essentially it’s stickier than cough syrup and better forms a coating to protect the nerve endings in the throat that trigger the urge to cough.
But this is not the first study to shows chocolate can calm coughs, researchers at London’s Imperial College found that theobromine, an alkaloid in cocoa, stopped coughing better than codeine, a common ingredient in most cough syrups.
So the next time you’ve got the tickling in the throat look for a product which includes cocoa or just stuck on a dark chocolate square.
Rich in magnesium, an essential mineral that helps the body clock tick right, dark chocolate could help you sleep at night. Magnesium is essential to almost every tissue in the body and scientists have now found it helps the body keep a natural rhythm of day and night.
Researchers at Edinburgh and Cambridge Universities found magnesium influences daily cycles of sleeping and waking, hormone release, body temperature, and other body functions. The team discovered that when looking at human cells, magnesium levels rise an fall in a daily cycle. The mineral contributed to sustaining a healthy 24-hour clock in the cells, as well as impacting their rate of metabolism throughout the day.
Simulates Brain Function
Brain function is stimulated by dark chocolate, many studies have found that the smallest amount of chocolate can have a huge effect on the brain functions of adults.
A serving or two of dark chocolate may boost memory, cognitive (the working things out process in our mind), the immune system and mood. One study of healthy volunteers showed that eating high-flavanol cocoa for five days improved blood flow to the brain.
In one study by the University of Columbia, those who drank a high-potency flavanol drink- those nutrients found in dark chocolate drinks- for three months had improved memory function and changes in the part of the brain linked to age-related memory decline.
Dark chocolate may also significantly improve cognitive function in elderly people with mental impairment. It may improve verbal fluency and several risk factors for disease, as well.
For the short term, dark chocolate contains stimulant substances like caffeine and theobromine can improve brain functions so sucking on a square or two of dark chocolate may help you finish that sudoku.
Dark chocolate may have a bad reputation for taste and looks than to it’s sweeter cousin milk chocolate but it’s packing a load of health benefits according to the many research studies; which could help lower your risk from some nasty long term health issues- like stroke, cancers, high blood pressure, and others- as well as annoying coughs and improve your brain function which means you now have an excuse to sit down with your favorite dark chocolate and enjoy a few squares whilst enjoying health benefits.