Considered to be an unhealthy treat, chocolate surprisingly comes with several health benefits. Made from the seed of the cocoa tree, it contains a high source of antioxidants. It is important to choose dark chocolate with a high cocoa solid content as compared to high sweetened milk chocolate, as it is loaded with nutrients that can impact your health positively.
Look for 70% or above cocoa as the darker the chocolate, the higher the flavonoid content. Flavonoids are found in a number of fruits and vegetables, and rich in antioxidant powers that are thought to be associated with reduced risk of a variety of diseases.
Find out how dark chocolate is more than just a tasty treat as we look into the health benefits it offers.
1. Overall Cholesterol Profile
The fatty acid profile of dark chocolate is great as the fats found are mostly saturated and monounsaturated. The cocoa butter present in dark chocolate comprises of oleic, palmitic and stearic acids. This does not raise bad cholesterol and may even lead to an increase in the levels of protective good cholesterol.
2. Source of Antioxidants
Dark chocolate is filled with organic compounds that function as antioxidants, which include flavanols and polyphenols. These compounds are believed to neutralise free radicals, unbalanced compounds that are created by the body’s cellular processes and thought to be responsible for ageing and skin damage, and protect the body from them.
Polyphenols have been linked to health benefits such as better blood flow, reduced inflammation and lower blood pressure, while flavanols, a main type of flavonoid found in dark chocolate, are potent in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
3. Improve Heart Health
Studies have shown that flavanols display positive effects on heart health by lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow to the heart and the brain. It can also help to make the blood platelets less sticky to be able to clot, which in turn lowers the risk of blood clots and stroke. In the long run, cholesterol should have lower chances of being lodged in the arteries, resulting in reduced risk of heart diseases.
Dark chocolate was also found to protect lipoproteins against oxidative damage, thus lowering oxidized LDL (low-density lipoprotein), the “bad” cholesterol. Having high LDL level can lead to a build-up of cholesterol in the arteries.
4. Better Cognitive Function
Thanks to the polyphenols found in cocoa, it may improve brain function by increasing blood flow and also help reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. It was also suggested that flavanols in cocoa can be beneficial in age-related brain degeneration such as dementia and stroke. They have a role in supporting brain function, neuron production and improve the blood supply and flow to brain tissue.
5. Good for the Gut
New research suggests that the microbes living in your gut create anti-inflammatory compounds when you consume dark chocolate. These good bacteria ferment both the fiber and antioxidants in cocoa, producing compounds that can improve blood vessel function and increase the protective bacteria in your gut. There were also studies that show the flavonoids found in cocoa can offer mild relief of diarrhoea symptoms, by preventing fluid loss in the small intestine.
While there is considerable evidence behind cocoa’s health benefits, consumption in moderation is always recommended. Chocolate is still loaded with calories and contain amounts of sugar, which may not be that great for your health if overconsumed. You can discuss with a doctor specialised in gastroenterology regarding incorporating dark chocolate into your diet.