There are always stories in the news about the benefits of consuming more dark chocolate, but why? Can it really be considered a healthy chocolate? There are many health benefits to chocolate with more being discovered every day such as the recent correlation to autistic function and chocolate, but what is it that makes dark chocolate have all of these health benefits?
Dark chocolate, unlike milk, has significantly less fat and with less fat it is certainly a healthier choice than other candy confections and less likely to cause obesity when consumed in moderation. Some experts state that the milk which is incorporated in milk chocolate prevents the beneficial antioxidants in cacao from being absorbed in to the body. Cocoa-phenols, a substance which is proven to decrease blood pressure become higher with increasing amounts of cacao so it only makes sense that as cacao content increases so too do health benefits.
Naturally occurring flavonoids as found in plants such as the theobroma-cacao tree act as anti-oxidants helping to protect the body from damage as a result of free radicals as we age. Since these flavonoids are a result of cacao content it only makes sense that they occur in higher quantities in darker chocolates than they are in other varieties, so if you are looking for health benefits your best choice is always going to be one with higher cocoa content. Many people, however, prefer to go with lighter dark chocolates because they do not taste as bitter, this is unfortunate because as cacao content decreases so too do the healthy benefits of this sweet treat!
One of the many facts about chocolate that generates the most interest is that of cacao’s ability to stimulate a feeling of euphoria or “being in love”. What is it that promotes this feeling of well being? Well, the chemical composition of dark chocolate stimulates production of both serotonin and endorphins which when combined create a feeling of happiness and stimulation, not unlike the serotonin prescribed in antidepressants and the release of endorphins during exercise. As with most of the health benefits of our favorite cacao based treat the darker the color the higher the concentration of elements which elicit these changes in our bodies.
Another unique aspect of dark chocolate which is often misunderstood is that of high saturated fat content. Many people try to discourage consumption of chocolate based on the high fat content; however, the fat is mostly composed of saturated fat in the form of stearic acid. Stearic acid in moderation is a saturated fat like no other and has been shown to reduce bad cholesterol unlike other saturated fats! The why as far as this health benefit still remains a mystery to scientists everywhere!
Most of the health benefits to dark chocolate can be attributed to the high levels of flavonol antioxidants. These antioxidants contribute to the various health benefits that are featured in the news almost daily. It has so far been proven that in moderation dark chocolate added to any diet can decrease blood pressure, decrease bad cholesterol, decrease risk of hemorrhagic stroke, increase brain activity, improve circulation, suppress coughing, inhibit diarrhea, facilitate dilation and decrease risk of infarction!