What Are the Benefits of Dark Chocolate? Results Proven by Science
While I have written about the many fascinating facts of chocolate, I failed to mention the many benefits of chocolate, specifically dark chocolate. So, what are the benefits of dark chocolate exactly? How can the simple products of the cacao tree be so healthy? Let’s find out.
Dark Chocolate is Full of Antioxidants
The ancient Aztecs consumed pure chocolate long before any chocolate bars or chocolate manufacturers came around. They used to turn the cacao beans into a drink and mix it with chili peppers. This drink was usually only reserved for the emperor because it was so luxurious and even godly.
While we don’t think of dark chocolate as godly today, the ancient Aztecs may have been onto something health-wise. Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that can inhibit oxidation in the body. Oxidation, caused by unstable atoms known as free radicals, damage the body in a number of ways. From accelerating aging to causing inflammation, oxidation is never good.
If you’re worried about oxidation, consuming dark chocolate can be a great idea. However, remember that milk chocolate won’t give you these benefits. Instead, the purer the chocolate the better, even though it might be more bitter in taste compared to what you’re used to.
Dark Chocolate May Improve Blood Flow
Good blood flow is essential for all the systems of the body. If your blood starts to slow down due to occluded blood vessels or other reasons, you may feel sluggish and tired and your risk of heart attack and stroke may increase. Dark chocolate is unique because it contains compounds known as flavanols.
Flavanols are able to stimulate the endothelium which is the innermost layer of blood vessels. By stimulating this layer of blood vessels, the endothelium is able to produce nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide is a great muscle relaxant and can even relax the muscular layers that surround blood vessels.
As blood vessels relax, blood will be able to flow more easily. The end result is a reduction in blood pressure. However, these effects are mild and some studies show inconclusive results.
Dark Chocolate Can Protect Against Heart Disease
Since dark chocolate seems to have implications for improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure, it only makes sense that it may be able to protect against heart disease as well. Usually, heart disease occurs when LDL, or oxidized bad cholesterol, begins to clog in your blood vessels.
However, dark chocolate seems to be able to prevent LDL from becoming oxidized in the first place. This reduces how “bad” this type of cholesterol can be and it also seems to prevent LDL from clogging up arteries. In fact, some observational studies have shown that those who eat dark chocolate at least twice a week show a significantly decreased risk of heart disease. Since heart disease is one of the top killers in the world, this is great news.
Dark Chocolate Can Protect Your Skin
I have written about the protective benefits of vitamin C for the skin in another post, but consuming dark chocolate may give you another layer of protection. Sun damage is one of the most common ways skin becomes damaged. This is because the sun’s UV rays can break apart strands of DNA in your cells and cause minor mutations such as thymine dimers that can lead to skin cancer and other problems.
Dark chocolate’s flavanols seem to give the skin some protective benefits. Its ability to increase blood flow also seems to improve skin hydration. Of course, eating a mountain of dark chocolate is no substitute for using sunscreen on particularly hot and sunny days.
Dark Chocolate and Brain Function
Your body as well as your mind both decline as you age. Fortunately, dark chocolate may be able to slow down this progression. Again thanks to the flavanols in chocolate, some studies have shown that those who consume dark chocolate regularly have better blood flow to the brain.
Of course, without good blood flow, the brain isn’t going to be able to function very well. Since blood flow decreases with age, this is often one of the reasons why older people have slower cognitive capabilities. Dark chocolate may even be able to help those who are already suffering from mild cognitive impairments.
What Are the Benefits of Dark Chocolate?
As you have already seen, dark chocolate is full of health benefits. Adding a small amount of dark chocolate to your diet every day can work as well as any health supplement, if not better.
However, don’t be fooled into thinking that any chocolate can give you these benefits. You certainly won’t see any improvements with milk chocolate since it is mostly milk and sugar. Instead, to maximize your benefits, you should opt for dark chocolate that is at least 70% pure.