Chocolate has been a long-time favorite of children and adults alike to satisfy a sweet tooth or cure a broken heart.
In the early days chocolate was seen as a mood-enhancing aphrodisiac and symbol of luxury and power only available to the wealthiest of people. Once touted as the “food of Gods” for its myriad of health benefits, this popular comfort food received some bad press due to its high fat content.
Despite the wealth of positive coverage, chocolate has long been suspected of worsening acne and increasing the risk for a host of lifestyle illnesses such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer.
However, not all chocolate is created equally. The sugar and milk infused chocolate most Americans consume today will not be of much help when it comes to improving your health and happiness.
Dark chocolate, with at least 70 percent cocoa, on the other hand, has been scientifically proven to keep your brain sharp, your heart in perfect condition, and your skin shielded from UV-induced damage.
Here are seven science-backed reasons why you should indulge in this bitter and sweet treat more often.
1. Packed with beneficial nutrients
Dark chocolate with a high cocoa percentage is a good source of healthy fats, fiber, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, zinc, among many other beneficial plant nutrients. Though, moderation is key as all these nutrients come with a lot of calories and moderate amounts of sugar too.
2. Antioxidant powerhouse
Cocoa houses an impressive amount of powerful antioxidants such as polyphenols, flavanols, and catechins. In the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) chart, raw cocoa is at the top of the antioxidant list, among other superfoods such as blueberries, goji berries, and pomegranate seeds.
The ORAC scale was developed to measure the effectiveness of antioxidants to neutralize free radicals that may cause damage to DNA, cells, and tissues.
3. Reduce blood pressure naturally
A 2012 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that moderate consumption of dark chocolate or raw cocoa powder reduced blood pressure and improved insulin levels and blood flow.
4. Improve cholesterol levels
If you are struggling with elevated cholesterol levels, dark chocolate may become your new best friend. Regular consumption has shown to significantly decrease oxidized LDL (bad) cholesterol while improving HDL (good) cholesterol.
5 May Lower cardiovascular disease risk
High blood pressure, elevated LDL cholesterol, and insulin levels have been linked to cardiovascular diseases. As mentioned above, dark chocolate has a positive effect on all three, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases or death.
One study found that people who ate chocolate five times or more a week had a 57 percent lower risk of developing cardiovascular issues. However, this number is to be taken with a grain of salt as it is based on observational studies and other factors may be at play.
6. Chocolate as a natural sunscreen
Flavanols in dark chocolate may protect against UV-induced damage, improve blood flow to the skin, and increase skin density and hydration.
7. Boost brain health
Lastly, dark chocolate may also boost brain power. It improves blood flow to the brain and has shown to improve memory in elderly people with mental impairment. Cocoa contains caffeine-like substances known to boost short-term brain function.
While the evidence that raw cocoa or dark chocolate can significantly improve your health is definitely out there, remember, that doesn’t give you carte blanche to load up on this sweet, bitter treat.
Keep consumption down to a square or two a day and make sure to buy high-quality and organic dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa. The more cocoa, the better as that is where all the amazing benefits are coming from.