12 Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

“When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.” ~Regina Brett

Go ahead, give in to the temptation of smooth, silky, rich, dark, sweet goodness of cocoa and chocolate.  No longer should you resist or feel guilty about indulging in a piece (or two or three) of dark (75% or higher cocoa concentration), made by nature super-food.  Why? Because science tells us so!  After reviewing a multitude of studies published in the past year, the verdict on dark chocolate for health is clear.  It is really good for you!  Moderate consumption of dark chocolate has multiple health benefits.  Here are the top 12 health benefits of eating cocoa and dark chocolate.

1.  Dark chocolate makes it easier to deal with stress and helps to relieve depression and anxiety.  It contains anandamide, which inhibits brain receptors involved in creating worry, fear, and pain.

2.  Dark chocolate consumption is linked with reducing risk of stroke.   Stroke happens in the brain when blood flow gets blocked and, as a result, brain tissue can get damaged.  Flavonoid, a compound present in chocolate, seems to be protective against stroke.

3.¬† Dark chocolate may reduce the risk of developing heart disease.¬† A healthy heart is supported by healthy “plumbing” or blood vessels.¬† A recent study showed that cocoa and dark chocolate consumption are associated with increasing blood flow and decreasing stiffness of the arteries that bring blood to the heart.

4.  Dark chocolate helps with losing weight by increasing a sense of satiety and decreasing food cravings.  Research shows that chocolate also decreases expression of genes involved in fatty acid synthesis and absorption of fats.

5.  Dark chocolate protects against colon cancer.  Cocoa and its main polyphenols have been reported to stop cancer cells from developing.  Diets rich in polyphenols promote colon health and may delay the onset of colon cancer.

6.  Dark chocolate helps to increase HDL or heart-protective cholesterol.  One study states that daily intake of dark chocolate increases good cholesterol by 6% which is quite significant because HDL is so hard to raise in most people.

7.  Dark chocolate may reduce the risk of developing diabetes and obesity.  Chemicals found in chocolate help with metabolism of fat as well as glucose and therefore decrease the risk of diabetes and obesity.

8.  Dark chocolate is shown to help decrease blood pressure in patients.  Nitric oxide is implicated in blood vessel widening and chocolate seems to have an effect on increasing sensitivity of cells to nitric oxide.  As blood vessels increase in size,  blood pressure drops.

9.¬† Dark chocolate has been shown to increase longevity and lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. ¬†Aging and Alzheimer’s are linked ¬†to damage from free radicals. ¬†Chocolate has been shown to have powerful protective anti-aging and anti-free radical properties by possessing strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities.

10.¬† Dark chocolate improves kidney health. ¬†Kidneys are body’s filters of waste products from the blood.¬† Compounds found in cocoa and chocolate promote kidney health by widening blood vessels going to and from kidneys and increasing blood flow which maximizing kidney waste filtering functions.

11.  Dark chocolate makes you smarter.  Cognitive function or thinking ability has been shown to improve after digesting of chocolate.  As blood flow to the brain increases, thinking ability does too.

12.¬† Dark chocolate improves mood¬†as it contains the mood lifting chemicals¬†theobromine and phenylethyamine.¬† It raises serotonin, dopamine, and endocannabinoid levels–happiness and contentedness inducing chemicals.

Please note that only dark chocolate which is the richest in flavonoids has greatest benefit for health.  The less processed your cocoa is to its natural raw state, the better it is for you.  Also, remember that chocolate is very calorie-dense and therefore, should be consumed in moderation (3-6  small squares a day).

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