Chocolate is one of the world’s most consumed products, we know it is bad for us but sometimes all you need is a little hit of something sweet after your meal or to pick you up during that afternoon lull. But did you know that dark chocolate is actually good for you? You may prefer the smoother, sweeter taste of milk chocolate but once you hear the health benefits of dark you won’t go back. Dark chocolate that contains 70% or more cocoa can actually help your brain function better, lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, improve blood flow and lower cholesterol. Pretty impressive for something so yummy right? The only draw back is that it often contains sugar and therefore needs to be consumed in smaller doses rather than stuffed down your face on your tea break. Let’s break down exactly why dark chocolate is good for you and how you can use it as a health food.
Nutritious and delicious:
Dark chocolate that is made of 70% or higher of cocoa contains a good amount of soluble fiber and is loaded with minerals. A 100 gram bar of dark chocolate with 70-85% cocoa contains:
11 grams of fiber
67% of the RDA for Iron
58% of the RDA for Magnesium
89% of the RDA for Copper
98% of the RDA for Manganese
It also has lots of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium. Impressive right?! Of course 100g is too much to be consuming in one day so why not buy a large bar of good quality, organic dark chocolate and take just a few squares with you to work each day. Because dark chocolate is so rich you won’t need so much too.
Good for your brain:
Dark chocolate is also known to improve the function of the brain. One study of volunteers showed that 5 days of consuming high-flavanol cocoa improved blood flow to the brain. Cocoa can improve cognitive function in elderly people with mental impairment and it improves verbal fluency too. Cocoa contains stimulant substances e.g. caffeine and theobromine, which may be a reason why cocoa can improve brain function in the short term, making it an ideal pick me up snack for your afternoon lull.
Lowers cholesterol and risk of heart disease:
The flavanols in dark chocolate can stimulate the lining of the arteries to produce Nitric Oxide, which is a gas. Nitric oxide sends signals to the arteries to relax, which lowers resistance to blood flow and reduces blood pressure. However, the effect from chocolate can be fairly small so don’t rely completely on dark chocolate to improve your blood pressure.
It turns out that there are several long-term observational studies that show a fairly drastic improvement when eating dark chocolate. A recent study revealed that eating dark chocolate two or more times a week lowered the risk of having calcified plaque in the arteries by 32%. Eating chocolate less frequently had no effect. But a different study showed that eating chocolate 5 or more times a week lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease by 58%. Staggering!
The bottom line here is that you need to eat very good quality dark chocolate or use raw cacao powder in your recipes to see the health benefits. Most dark chocolate you can buy on the market contains a very high amount of added sugar which carries with it it’s own health risks. Always make sure that it is 70% cocoa or over and try to buy organic. It will most certainly be more expensive but it will satisfy your cravings without having to binge eat it, unlike milk chocolate.