Dark chocolate health benefits are numerous and lots of research is going on to know in which diseases and conditions it may be helpful. Dark chocolate benefits the body as it is the best source of antioxidants. It is produced from the seed of the cocoa tree. The darker and more bitter it tastes, and the better are its health benefits. In Mexico, the Pre-Olmec cultures consumed as a bitter beverage. Later on, the cacao beans were fermented, roasted and then ground to make a paste with spices and water; also honey was added as a sweetener. The Mayans, Aztecs and Olmecs used chocolate for mood enhancing and aphrodisiac properties and were reserved for only higher or ruling classes.
Dark chocolate have been considered by researchers in various health fields now-a-days and is even known to help in depression and mood elevation. During the 17th century, cocoa as well as chocolate were considered as medicine and there are some historical documents in Europe that suggest that they were used to treat heart pain and angina.
Due to the 400 polyphenols present in the raw cocoa, it causes it to have a bitter taste. But the milk chocolate candies present in the market has a very little amount of healthy cocoa and a large amount of refined sugars. The milk that is added to the chocolate can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb the antioxidants that are present in the cocoa.
20 Dark Chocolate Health Benefits
1. Nutritional Value Of Dark Chocolate
A 100 gm of dark chocolate bar contains a good amount of soluble fibers and with 70 to 80% of cocoa. It contains 11 grams fiber, 58% magnesium, 98% manganese, 67% iron and 89% copper. It also contains potassium, zinc, selenium and phosphorous in lesser amounts. Cocoa also contains saturated, unsaturated and a small amounts of polyunsaturated fats. It also contains theobromine and caffeine however; caffeine is in lower amounts as compared to in coffee.
2. Fights Cancer
Dark chocolate has anti-cancer agents which are antioxidants. These antioxidants fight free radicals that are cancer causing agents. Free radicals can damage cells and also form cancerous tumors.
3. Reduces The Risk Of Alzheimer’s Disease
This is of the important health benefits of dark chocolate studied recently. Raw cocoa has a large number of antioxidants that can slower the aging process of brain cells. It can also reduce the damage to brain cells and prevent plaque formation in the brain that leads to Alzheimer’s disease.
4. Improves Brain Function
Studies have shown that when healthy volunteers consume high-flavanol cocoa for 5 days, it improved the blood flow to the brain. Cocoa may also have the ability to improve cognition impairment in elderly people with mental issues. Also, due to the fact that cocoa contains caffeine and theobromine that are stimulants, it can improve brain function for short term. Thus, this is one of the dark chocolate health benefits.
5. Reduces The Risk Of Obesity
Raw cocoa contains around 400 polyphenols. These polyphenols help in suppressing the fatty acid synthesis in the body. Furthermore, it also stimulates the cell energy expenditure in the mitochondria. And due to this fact, it is able to reduce the obesity risk.
6. Blood Clotting
Dark chocolate are many and one of them is that it acts as anti-coagulant. Researchers from University of California suggests that eating chocolate regularly that is rich in flavonoids can positively affect the cardiovascular system as well even lower the risk of blood clots.
7. Improves Gastrointestinal Flora
Dark chocolate helps the body by increasing the useful bacteria like lactobacillus and bifidobacteria in the gut. This has been shown by studies done by researchers.
8. Reduces Stress
Cortisol as well as catecholamines induces stress in people. Studies have shown where the consumption of dark chocolate regularly can reduce the levels of cortisol as well as catecholamines in stressed people and this is considered as one of the health benefits of chocolate. This is done due to the presence of Valeric acid present in cocoa as it acts as a stress reducer even though, stimulants are present.
9. Improves Eye Health
Health dark chocolate benefits are many and one of them is to protect eye vision. It can also greatly reduce the symptoms of glaucoma and protects against diabetes induced-cataracts. A recent study in which researchers took 30 glaucoma patients and 30 similar-aged controls. In this case, both groups were randomly given dark or white chocolate and two hours before and after eating, researchers checked their blood pressure, blood glucose levels as well as their static retinal vessel analysis, central retinal vein equivalent and the arterio venous ratio. Also, the retinal vessel diameter to the light flicker stimulation changes was observed. They found no change in both the groups’ intraocular pressure, blood pressure and blood glucose levels after consuming dark as well as white chocolate. However, they noticed a significant difference in the dilation of venules and arterioles in the control group after the intake of dark chocolate. Flavonoids can further protect the eyes from damage and oxidative stress. Thus this shows evidence of potential improvement in eye health.
10. Improves Oral Health
Surprisingly, chocolate isn’t so bad for your teeth after all. Dark chocolate health benefits the body by preventing harmful bacteria from damaging the teeth. Oral bacteria like Streptococci can produce acids that damage tooth enamel and cause cavities. The antioxidants present in dark chocolate prevent these bacteria as well as the cocoa present in chocolate coats the teeth which in turn prevent plaque formation on the teeth. Periodontitis is characterized by the swelling and inflammation of the gums. The dark chocolate reduces the progression of this periodontal disease and thus prevents the bacteria to enter the bloodstream and cause heart diseases.
11. Protection From Cardiovascular Diseases
Cocoa contains healthy fats and antioxidants that help in improving the lipid profile and thus helps in reducing cholesterol levels. It also prevents arterial fibrillation as well as lowers blood pressure in people suffering from high blood pressure. Flavanols help in prevent blood clotting and thus reduces the risk of strokes or heart attacks. Periodontitis disease causes bacteria to enter the blood stream and cause heart diseases however, antioxidants in chocolate kills the bacteria and reduces heart disease risks.
12. Improves Skin
The bioactive compounds present in dark chocolate may promote skin health and this is one of the dark chocolate health benefits. The flavanols helps to protect the skin from sun damage and also improves the blood circulation to the skin. In this way, the skin becomes hydrated and youthful. The minimal erythemal dose (MED) is the minimum required amount of UV rays to cause redness on the skin 24 hours after being exposed. A study showed that the MED doubled after individuals consumed dark chocolate rich in flavanols for 12 weeks. So, in this way dark chocolate can reduce damage to the skin and make your skin healthy.
Dark chocolate benefits pregnant women by reducing the risk of developing preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a condition in which the blood pressure increases rapidly and may be fatal for both mother and child. Researchers at Yale University observed that women who consumed chocolate during pregnancy had higher amounts of theobromine in the umbilical cord blood and were at the least risk of developing this condition.
14. Improves Liver Function
Long term liver damage leads to the cirrhosis which is the scarring of the liver. Liver is damage due to increased oxidative stress and also reduced antioxidants. After eating, the blood flow is increased to the liver which is very harmful cirrhotic patients as they already suffer from increased blood pressure. This may lead to blood vessel rupture. A study showed that there is an association between dark chocolate and portal hypertension and can minimize the impact of end-stage liver disease and the mortality risks that are associated with it.
15. Boost Athletic Performance
A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports and Nutrition has suggested that eating dark chocolate may boost performance in fitness training. This may be due to the fact that it supplies instant energy and may also be good for a normal workout for non-athletic people as well.
16. Relieves Diarrhea
During the 16th century people used cocoa to treat diarrhea. Scientists now believe that the flavonoids present in cocoa binds to a protein that regulates the secretion of fluids into the small intestine and thereby, inhibiting it.
17. Aids Weight Loss
One of the dark chocolate health benefits that researchers believe in is that, it can help in promoting weight loss. This is due to the fact that it can make a person feel full and thus they will consume lesser amount of calories. This also reduces cravings in a person who is trying to lose weight.
18. Relieves Coughs
A study found that cocoa has a compound called theobromine that gives a person the ‘feel good’ effect that may help suppress the activity of the vagus nerve that is involved in stimulating coughs.
19. Reduces The Risk Of Diabetes
Researchers believe that consuming a little amount of chocolate regularly can help lower the risk of diabetes and heart diseases. This is due to the fact as it can help maintain blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol levels and prevent blood clots.
20. Extend Life Span
Dark chocolate benefits the body as it may be able to increase the life-span of a person. This is because it can improve heart health, brain function, liver function and also has a number of antioxidants and minerals that play a vital role in body functions.
Thus, dark chocolate can be considered as one of the “superfoods” due to its high nutritional content and health benefits that it provides.