Dark chocolate is loaded with nutrients that can positively affect your health. Made from the seed of the cocoa tree, studies show that dark chocolate can improve your health and lower the risk of heart disease
VERY nutritious: It contains a decent amount of soluble fibre and is loaded with minerals. Dark chocolate with 70–85 per cent cocoa contains fibre, iron, magnesium, copper and manganese. It also has plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.
The fatty acid profile of cocoa and dark chocolate is also excellent. The fats are mostly saturated and monounsaturated, with small amounts of polyunsaturated fat.
It also contains stimulants like caffeine and theobromine, but is unlikely to keep you awake at night as the amount of caffeine is very small.
Powerful Source of Antioxidants
ORAC stands for “oxygen radical absorbance capacity.” It is a measure of the antioxidant activity of foods.
Dark chocolate is loaded with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants. These include polyphenols, flavanols and catechins, among others.
One study showed that cocoa and dark chocolate had more antioxidant activity, polyphenols and flavanols than any other fruits tested, which included blueberries and acai berries.
May improve blood flow and lower blood pressure
The flavanols in dark chocolate can stimulate the endothelium, the lining of arteries, to produce nitric oxide, NO. One of the functions of NO is to send signals to the arteries to relax, which lowers the resistance to blood flow and therefore reduces blood pressure.
Many controlled studies show that cocoa and dark chocolate can improve blood flow and lower blood pressure, though the effects are usually mild.
In a controlled study, cocoa powder was found to significantly decrease oxidized LDL cholesterol in men. It also increased HDL and lowered total LDL for those with heart disease.
Dark chocolate can also reduce insulin resistance, which is another common risk factor for many diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
In a study of 470 elderly men, cocoa was found to reduce the risk of death from heart disease by a whopping 50 per cent over a 15-year period. Another study revealed that eating chocolate two or more times per week lowered the risk of having calcified plaque in the arteries by 32 per cent. Eating chocolate less frequently had no effect.
Protect your skin from the sun: The bioactive compounds in dark chocolate may also be great for your skin.
The flavonols can protect against sun damage, improve blood flow to the skin and increase skin density and hydration. If you’re planning a beach vacation, consider loading up on dark chocolate in the prior weeks and months.
Improve brain function
One study of healthy volunteers showed that eating high-flavanol cocoa for five days improved blood flow to the brain. Cocoa 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.
Additionally, cocoa contains stimulants like caffeine and theobromine, which may be a key reason why it can improve brain function in the short term.
The bottom line
There is considerable evidence that cocoa can provide powerful health benefits, being especially protective against heart disease. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should go all out and consume lots of chocolate every day. It is still loaded with calories.