Good chocolate, meaning dark chocolate with a cocoa percentage of 70% or more, is wonderfully healthy. You’ll want to choose organic (to avoid pesticides) dark chocolate over milk or white chocolate, which don’t offer the same amazing health benefits that dark chocolate does. Also, be sure it’s naturally sweetened and free of high fructose corn syrup. Dark chocolate is not only super high in antioxidants, it’s packed with beneficial minerals such as magnesium, potassium, zinc, selenium and iron. Of course, you’ll want to indulge in moderation. Most studies that measure the health benefits of dark chocolate suggest consuming approximately 1.5 to 3 ounces daily.
The primary health-promoting benefit of dark chocolate comes from its high levels of potent antioxidants. Antioxidants are important because they protect cells and tissues from damage by free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can alter and weaken cells. Consider them as an insurance policy against the wear and tear that comes from stress, poor diet, and the inevitable process of aging.
Research shows that dark chocolate is good for the heart, circulation and brain, and it has been suggested that it may be beneficial for heath challenges such as autism, obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and aging in general. As an added benefit, the bioactive compounds in chocolate are also great for your skin by protecting against sun damage, improving blood flow and increasing skin hydration and density.
And, then there’s the way chocolate gets right to the heart of love and acts as an aphrodisiac by increasing the feel-good brain chemical, serotonin. Serotonin plays a major role in positive mood, emotional health, proper sleep and balanced appetite. Increased brain serotonin promoted by chocolate increases sexual desire and responsiveness. And, it creates the same chemical (endorphins) that the brain creates when you’re falling in love. Chocolate also provides a mood boost to women during PMS, perimenopause and menopause, when serotonin levels are often low.
The Amazing Antioxidant Benefits of Dark Chocolate include:
High in Antioxidants – Cocoa contains flavanols, a type of flavanoid that is only found in cocoa and chocolate. Flavanoids are naturally-occurring compounds that occur in plant foods that act as antioxidants and help counteract free radicals in the body.
Blood Pressure Benefits – Dark chocolate has been shown to lower blood pressure in people with elevated blood pressure.
Lower LDL Cholesterol – Eating dark chocolate on a regular basis has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol by as much as 10 percent.
Natural Anti-Depressant – Chocolate contains serotonin, a natural anti-depressant. Chocolate also stimulates endorphin production, which creates feelings of happiness and pleasure. This may explain why many people naturally reach for chocolate when they’re depressed.
Cancer Fighter – Several studies have found chocolate to be one of the best cancer-fighting foods along with foods like red wine, blueberries, garlic, and tea. Two ways that chocolate works as a cancer fighter is by inhibiting cell division and reducing inflammation, though research is ongoing and will likely find additional ways in which chocolate fights cancer.
Prevents Tooth Decay – Research has found that the theobromine in chocolate prevents tooth decay by eliminating streptococcus mutans, a bacteria found in the oral cavity that contributes to tooth decay.
High in Magnesium – Cacao is higher in magnesium than any other plant. Magnesium is an important mineral that helps in the regulation of the digestive, neurological, and cardiovascular systems. Since many people are magnesium deficient, adding magnesium-rich dark chocolate to the diet can improve overall health.
Artery Cleanup – Studies have shown that the antioxidants in cacao work like brooms in sweeping plaque out of the arteries. In fact, a 2011 Swedish study found that women who ate more than 45 grams of chocolate a week had a 20 percent lower risk of stroke than women who treated themselves to fewer than 9 grams of the sweet stuff.
Brain Health – Many studies have shown that dark chocolate is good for the brain. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that it can protect the brain after a stroke by shielding the nerve cells from further damage. Dark chocolate has also been found to improve memory.
Consider a bit of dark chocolate every day as you would a life enhancing vitamin supplement. And remember, all things in moderation!
Medical Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace the advice of a licensed medical doctor. Organic Excellence does not diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect a mental or physical health condition, please see your healthcare provider.