Brighten Your Health with Dark Chocolate

by Garreth Myers


For many, this might be the best news in ages! Studies in various scientific journals are now propagating the health benefits of dark chocolate. Recent claims state that regularly eating dark - not milk or white chocolate -can help lower blood pressure, reduce bad cholesterol (LDL), and increase the production of endorphins in the body. The serotonin and theobromine found in dark chocolate may also act as an anti-depressant and stimulant, while the vitamins and essential minerals found in cocoa beans all contribute to good health.

So far, so good. But how exactly does this work you might wonder? Well, the nutrition facts indicate that dark chocolate (containing 70% or more or cocoa) is chock full of potent flavonoids that act as antioxidants. These antioxidants can prevent the absorption of free radicals responsible for heart disease and other health problems. Studies are also being conducted on the use of dark chocolate to reduce high blood pressure. While more research and conclusive evidence is required, initial findings report that the cocoa phenols found in dark chocolate may contribute towards lowering blood pressure. To add to the good news, dark chocolate is also rich in healthy saturated and polyunsaturated fats that may help lower bad cholesterol.

While eating dark chocolate often is a dietary habit that you would be happy to make, the Journal of the American Medical Association however warns that eating dark chocolate is not ALL you should do to lower blood pressure and reduce heart disease. What is important is that you maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise and eat moderate portions of dark chocolate to reap the benefits and get your chocolate fix as well.

The stress out here however is on the word 'moderate.' It won't help matters if you use these findings as an excuse to binge on chocolate daily. Keep in mind that a 100 grams serving of dark chocolate is approximately 531 calories. If you overindulge in your favorite treat it can lead to obesity and along with it a host of other health problems. Similarly, you should not substitute healthy foods with chocolate. Rather, try and maintain a balanced meal plan rich in fresh fruit and vegetables along with whole grains and proteins. If you do this, you can allow yourself a few guilt-free squares of organic dark chocolate. Around an ounce a day is the current recommendation. None of the above health claims are applicable for milk or white chocolate or for that matter following up your dark chocolate splurge with a glass of milk as the milk restricts the beneficial effects of the antioxidants. Experts also suggest that you skip on dark chocolate with nuts, fruits, caramel or any other filling. Stick to the pure high cacao dark chocolate and you won't be sorry!

References:

  1. Charalambos Vlachopoulos, Konstantinos Aznaouridis, Nikolaos Alexopoulos, Emmanuel Economou, Ioanna Andreadou, Christodoulos Stefanadis, Effect of Dark Chocolate on Arterial Function in Healthy Individuals, American Journal of Hypertension, Volume 18, Issue 6, June 2005, Pages 785-791, ISSN 0895-7061, 10.1016/j.amjhyper.2004.12.008.
  2. http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/food/nutrition/nutrition/dietary_guide/hgic4090.html

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