Do you ever get the feeling that everything that tastes good is unhealthy? Well, what about chocolate? Believe it or not, the good news is NO, not all chocolate is unhealthy! When eaten in moderation, some forms of chocolate can actually help you become healthier. Which form of chocolate is healthiest? A recent study found that the healthiest chocolate is cacao powder, nibs or beans, followed by baking cocoa powder, unsweetened chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and lastly chocolate syrup. It should be noted that white chocolate contains much more fat and sugar than dark or milk chocolate, and should be avoided completely or eaten in very small amounts.
Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of dark chocolate.
Dark Chocolate is Nutritious
Quality dark chocolate with a high cocoa content is actually loaded with minerals and fiber. A single 100-gram bar of dark chocolate with a 70-85% cocoa content contains 11 grams of fiber. That same bar contains around 67% of the daily recommended value of iron and 58% of the DV for magnesium. 89% of the DV for copper and 98% of the DV for manganese. If you ever find yourself craving chocolate, your body might be telling you that you are low in some of these minerals.
Dark Chocolate is Rich with Antioxidants
Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants which are believed to have significant health benefits. The body produces toxic free radical molecules when it breaks down food, burns energy and also when you’re exposed to various stressors such as tobacco smoke or radiation. These harmful molecules can have a deleterious effect on our bodies’ cells and are thought to increase the risk of heart disease, cancer, and other diseases.
Luckily, antioxidants protect cells against free radicals by neutralizing them, reducing the risk of these diseases. Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants. Some studies have found that dark chocolate may even contain more antioxidants than some fruits that are touted as being high in antioxidants, such as blueberries and acai berries.
Dark Chocolate Benefits for High Blood Pressure
Several controlled studies have recently shown a possible connection between consuming dark chocolate, or the cacao bean, and lowering blood pressure. While these studies did report a drop in blood pressure in participants whose blood pressure was elevated, these effects were mild, so don’t expect dark chocolate alone to be able to lower your blood pressure to an acceptable level. Combined with other lifestyle changes such as exercising and reducing sodium consumption, dark chocolate may be a delicious way to help lower blood pressure.
Studies have shown that the cacao bean and dark chocolate have also been proven to unstiffen arteries, boost immune systems, and possibly slow aging.
Dark Chocolate Effects on HDL and LDL
In a controlled study, men who consumed cocoa powder significantly reduced their LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. It also increased HDL (good) cholesterol levels. And raising HDL while lowering LDL can help to stay heart-healthy.
Reducing Heart Disease Risk with Dark Chocolate
Since dark chocolate is capable of reducing LDL cholesterol and raising HDL cholesterol, it may also contribute to reducing the risk of heart disease over time. Lower levels of bad cholesterol can lower the risk of developing heart disease. Some studies have suggested that consuming cocoa over a long period of time can reduce the risk of developing heart disease by about 50% in men over 15 years. Eating dark chocolate regularly in moderation may have a role in keeping up heart-health.
Dark Chocolate May Improve Insulin Resistance
Some clinical studies suggest that dark chocolate that is low in sugar may help reduce insulin resistance, which is a risk factor for Type-2 diabetes and heart disease, however, we are not suggesting that you eat chocolate to prevent or treat diabetes. Some dark chocolates, in fact, are high in sugar, which can have the opposite effect.
How Dark Chocolate May Improve Brain Function
One promising study of healthy volunteers found that eating cocoa for five days improved blood flow to the brain, suggesting there may be a benefit to our brain health from consuming certain dark chocolates. Dark chocolate also contains stimulants like caffeine and theobromine, which may improve brain function in the short term.
Weight Loss Programs in South Florida
It is important to note that 100-grams of chocolate is not something you should be consuming daily. Since chocolate is high in sugar and calories, it is best to keep chocolate consumption down to an occasional treat, however, best to avoid altogether when on a weight loss program.
If you’re looking to lose weight and maintain a healthier lifestyle that might even eventually include chocolate, and you need an expert you can trust to guide you, CardioMender, MD partners those looking to lose weight and get healthy with a personal Nutritional Specialists. Our cardiologist-supervised weight loss program is tailored to each individual based on their specific needs.
Our Nutritional Specialists will help you develop effective eating habits to help you reach your weight loss goals. If you’re ready to get started, contact us today to learn more.
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