WELLNESS CORNER – Dark chocolate has always been perceived as an indulgent treat that you eat in moderation. However, recent research over the past few years has revealed that dark chocolate is not just a tasty treat, but it can also be good for you! In this blog, we will explore the health benefits of dark chocolate and unveil why it is good for you.
Dark chocolate contains a high amount of cocoa which is rich in flavonols, a type of flavonoid, which is known for its antioxidant properties. Flavonoids are known to reduce inflammation, improve blood flow, lower blood pressure, and increase insulin sensitivity.
Antioxidants are essential to our body’s health because they fight off free radicals that are generated by our metabolism as we age; free radicals can cause cellular damage leading to many diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and chronic inflammation. Dark chocolate’s high concentration of cocoa antioxidants can help reduce the damage caused by free radicals and fight off oxidative stress in our bodies.
Research has also shown that eating dark chocolate can help lower the risk of developing cardiovascular problems. One study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that eating dark chocolate could significantly reduce blood pressure. Another study conducted by the University of Cambridge found that consuming dark chocolate could decrease the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes. It is believed that the flavanols in chocolate have a protective effect on the heart by reducing inflammation and improving the blood vessels’ function.
Dark chocolate has also been shown to improve brain function. One study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that participants who consumed dark chocolate experienced improved cognitive function. The flavanols in chocolate increase cerebral blood flow, which improves cognitive function, alertness, and focus.
In addition to its cognitive benefits, dark chocolate has also been associated with improved mood. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine, also known as the “love chemical,” which is responsible for generating feelings of happiness and euphoria. Dark chocolate also contains tryptophan, an amino acid that helps produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood.
Dark chocolate is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties, which can benefit people with inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury or infection, but long-term inflammation can lead to chronic diseases such as arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and even cancer. Studies have found that the anti-inflammatory properties of dark chocolate can reduce joint pain and inflammation in people with arthritis.
Another benefit of dark chocolate is its ability to improve insulin sensitivity. Insulin is a hormone released by our pancreas to regulate our blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance, which involves the body’s inability to respond to insulin, can lead to high blood sugar levels and diabetes. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that daily consumption of dark chocolate reduces insulin resistance and improves glucose metabolism, making it an excellent preventive measure for diabetes.
Apart from being a tasty treat, dark chocolate can also help you lose weight. Contrary to popular belief, consuming moderate amounts of dark chocolate can help you lose weight, as it contains a high amount of fibre, which can help induce feelings of fullness. One study found that people who ate a diet rich in fibre were effective at reducing body weight.
Finally, dark chocolate has been associated with reducing the risk of cancer due to its antioxidant properties mentioned earlier. Research suggests that the high levels of antioxidants in dark chocolate may slow the growth of cancer cells. However, more research is needed to understand its full impact on cancer.
In conclusion, dark chocolate may have several health benefits, including reducing inflammation, improving heart health, improving brain function, improving mood, reducing joint pain and inflammation, improving insulin sensitivity, aiding weight loss, and reducing the risk of cancer. However, it is important to remember that moderation is the key, and not all chocolate is created equal. Choosing dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa solids and little to no added sugars, and consuming it in moderation alongside a healthy and balanced diet, will maximize the benefits and minimize the risks. Dark chocolate is indeed an indulgent treat that not only tastes good but has also been scientifically proven to be good for you!