Why You Need to Eat Chocolate: Top 5 Health Reasons
Dark chocolate has recently been proven to have a number of healthy benefits. With its increasing studies pointing to its rich levels of beneficial antioxidants and polyphenols (several thousands plant-based molecules that have antioxidant properties), it may be time to grab that dark chocolate bar without guilt.
Ah, the smell of a chocolate bar being opened. Can you smell it too? Puts a smile on your face, right? (a big smile!). When referring to chocolate bars, I’m referring to dark chocolate. But why not milk chocolate, right? Dark chocolate contains higher concentration of cacao seeds than milk chocolate, which promotes the health benefits.
And don’t get confused between cacao and cocoa. At glance I thought they were the same, but indeed they are a bit different from each other. Most of us know cocoa, like that yummy hot cocoa. Cocoa refers to the powder made from roasted, husked, ground cacao seeds that has most of its fat removed. Sounds healthier doesn’t it with its fats removed? But this time it’s the opposite – you want that fat as it’s the beneficial fat kind. And dark chocolate has cocoa but also has cacao, the good fats.
So what is Cacao
Cacao refers to the plant, the (small) evergreen tree (Theobroma cacao), which is cultivated for its seeds – the cacao beans. When roasted you get the chocolate. If it’s not roasted you get ‘raw chocolate’, which is becoming popular. But enough of the science talk, let’s talk chocolate! Let’s get to the health benefits, the superfood reason, the why we can eat it without guilt (giggle).
The Health Benefits
I remember watching an episode on the History channel about chocolate. It was a year or two ago, but do you know how much chocolate a(n) American person consumes each year? 12 pounds! That’s a whole lot of yumminess going on. But I want to make sure that indulgence is the healthy indulgence – the dark chocolate, guilt free, health benefit kind.
- Antioxidants – dark chocolate is becoming known as the superfood, right up there with blueberries and pomegranates. The flavanol and polyphenol content are high in dark chocolate, which creates that antioxidant – superfood property – their ability to stop free radical oxidation (this means it helps decrease your risk of diseases).
- Cardiovascular Health- studies found that cardiovascular disease and strokes compared to people who didn’t consume chocolate. The research explained that the flavanols in cocoa powder and dark chocolate can improve LDL (bad cholesterol). Flavanols have shown to decrease LDL oxidation by free radicals. Additionally, flavanols increase production of nitric oxygen gas in our bodies – nitric oxide causes blood vessel walls to relax, creating better blood flow and lower blood pressure.(1)
- Improves Brain Function – This wonderful flavanol rich cocoa increases blood flow in the body, which also indicates it helps with blood flow to the brain. I had read in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that consuming cocoa flavanols increases cognitive function. There was a study giving older adults cocoa flavanols for a certain period of time. When the adults were tested, they showed improvements in their brain function. (what a great study to be in!)
- Boost Mood – Dark chocolate helps release endorphins. And when endorphins are released, that causes serotonin to be released. As a result, mood is uplifted (yay! I love dark chocolate)
- Vital Nutrients – dark chocolate has high fiber and minerals. Let’s be clear, no eating an 8 ounce bar (aww shucks, I know). But rather about an ounce and a half, which gives: 4.6g of fiber-31mg of calcium-5mg of iron-97mg of magnesium -304mg potassium.(2)
That’s pretty decent nutrients in a small bar of dark chocolate
Type of Dark Chocolate
Not all chocolate is created equal. You have white chocolate (that carriers no nutrition), milk chocolate (has some nutrition with flavanols but has added milk fat and sugar), and dark chocolate (the kind to eat with high flavanols). And not all dark chocolate is the same.
For this, we want to eat no less than 70% cacao or cocoa (raw cacao is ultimately the best if you can handle it. It’s cold pressed unroasted beans gives it powerful nutrients.
So Grab a Bar
Wow! Dark chocolate is okay to eat and it’s a health superfood. Music to my ears! (how about your’s?) So what are you waiting for? Go grab a (small) bar of dark chocolate and get your superfood on. Because that chocolate bar has a punch of flavanols that make it a superfood of antioxidants, helps with cardiovascular health, improves brain function, has nutrients such as iron, fiber, and magnesium, and it’s a mood booster.
So grab yourself a piece of guilt free, helping your health, dark chocolate bar.
*this product is not intended to replace, diagnose, treat, cure, and prevent any diseases. Always consult with your physician. Statements not evaluated by the FDA.