Dark chocolate is a form of chocolate that is different from all other chocolates due to its high levels of cocoa powder and a little amount of milk. The cocoa content makes it one of the best sources of antioxidants on the planet, and several studies over the years have shown it to positively affect the health. Below are some of its benefits.
1. It lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease
Dark chocolate contains some compounds known to be highly protective against the oxidation of LDL. This reduces the risk of cholesterol building up in the arteries, which lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. A study of 470 elderly men found cocoa to reduce the risk of cardiovascular defect related deaths by 50% over a 15 year period. Another study also found that consuming dark chocolate two or more times every week lowers the risk of having calcified plaque in the arteries by 32%.
2. It improves brain function
A study of healthy volunteers showed that 5 days of consuming high-flavanol cocoa improved blood circulation to the brain. Cocoa has also been shown to improve cognitive functions in elderly people that may have mental impairment. It also contains caffeine and theobromine, known as stimulant substances that may be a key reason why cocoa improves the function of the brain in the short term.
3. It raises HDL and protects LDL against oxidation
A recent controlled trial found that cocoa powder significantly decreased oxidized LDL cholesterol in men and increased HDL in men with elevated levels of cholesterol. LDL that has reacted with elevated cholesterol are known as the oxidized LDL, which becomes reactive and capable of damaging the arteries of the heart and other tissues. The antioxidants in cocoa also make it into the bloodstream and helps to protect lipoproteins against oxidative damage.
4. It protects the skin against the sun
Dark chocolate contains bioactive compounds that may be great for the skin. The flavanols protect against sun-induced damage, improve blood circulation to the skin and also increase skin density and hydration. A study of thirty people found that the Minimal Erythemal Dose- MED (minimum amount of UVB rays required to cause redness in the skin, 24 hours after exposure), increased after they consumed high-flavanol dark chocolates for 12 weeks.
5. It is very nutritious
Dark chocolate is a rich source of fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium. It has a moderate amount of sugar, and with a 100 grams containing as much as 600 calories, it is best consumed in moderation. It also contains healthy fats, which makes it great for the heart.
Although these benefits may be enough reasons for you to fill your fridge and purse with chocolates, their portion size should be kept in check. Bear in mind that it is loaded with calories and easy to over-eat due to its delicious taste.
image courtesy of: w3doctor.com, tasteofamish.com.