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Who loves eating chocolates? A lot of people, apparently!
It’s a well-loved sweet treat with approximately 51.7 billion industry that has taken the permanent residency in our lives.
It’s a pick-me-upper that satisfies sugar cravings, explodes the luscious chocolate flavor in your mouth, and adds real texture to certain dishes.
No doubt, it can have negative effects on our health that leave some folks’ taste buds too keen to enjoy the 70% cacao.
So what? Call off the chocolate wars!
It might sound too good to be true, but dark chocolate can provide plenty of health benefits because it contains a true superfood, cacao – also known as “food of the gods.”
And the best part? There are countless studies to support those claims.
But before dive into the pros and cons, let’s discuss the technical details of this highly treasured food. Plus, I’ve also added some pro tips to help you buy only the premium quality dark chocolate that satisfies your sweet tooth. Thank me later!
What is dark chocolate?
It’s a form of chocolate with little to no added milk solids (found in milk chocolate). The basic ingredients include cocoa solids, cocoa butter, sugar, lecithin, and some flavoring.
For Your Information: In general agreement, the term “dark chocolate” refers to the chocolate containing less than 12% milk, but there is a little consensus on the minimum chocolate liquor content, and this varies greatly depending on the country and the market.
Dark chocolate is a luxurious treat that’s rich in flavor and dark in color – a bittersweet choice for those who always crave for exotic and full-bodied flavors.
It’s delicious in any form, from cakes and cookies to caffeinated drinks and hot cocoa. But healthy? Sure-in multiple ways when indulging in moderation.
Let’s discuss why it has become the choice of snack for people around the world.
1. Highly nutritious – and so delicious!
The exact nutritional values will vary, depending on the brand and the level of cocoa and sugar added. But if you buy the finest quality dark chocolate with relatively high cocoa content, then it’s actually very nutritious.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, 100g dark chocolate with 70-85% cacao solids contains:
- 43.06g of fat
- 7.87g of protein
- 24.23g of sugar
- 43mg of caffeine
- 10.9g of fiber
- 73mg of Calcium
- 11.9mg of Iron
- 228mg of Magnesium
- It also has an abundance of phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc.
Of course, 100 grams is fairly a high amount, and despite being rich in flavonoid, it mustn’t be indulged in excess.
So, how much dark chocolate should I eat?
Stick to moderate consumption – most experts believe that the recommended dosage for dark chocolate is 30g to 60g (approximately 1 to 2 ounces) a day.
2. Powerful source of antioxidants
Dark chocolate is loaded with a variety of compounds that are biologically active and possess antioxidants properties, such as flavanols and polyphenols.
Oxidative stress plays a role in the natural aging process and may increase the risk of developing several diseases, reports Medical News Today. These include:
- Heart disease
- Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease
- Eye disease
However, it’s worth mentioning that the antioxidants in the dark chocolate can hold back the oxidative stress and “disarm” the free radicals found by using ORAC and four other methods.
In fact, a 2011 study by Chemical Central Journal reports that dark chocolate and cocoa had a high value of powerful antioxidants than any other fruits (blueberries and acai berries) tested.
3. May improve your heart health
Several studies on the cocoa product, especially dark chocolate suggest that they can be highly beneficial for your heart and appear to be extremely protective for reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
In fact, several long-term observational studies on dark chocolate found that eating dark chocolate more than 5 times a week had lowered the risk of developing heart disease by 57% (1).
In addition, it also reduces the chances of death from heart disease by 50% for over a 15 years period (2).
It’s important to know that those were observational studies, so can’t prove if it was the dark chocolate that helped to reduce the risk.
However, its confirmed biological mechanism indicates that eating dark chocolate may lower the risk of several cardiovascular diseases.
4. May improve brain function and immunity
Studies on the brain and cognitive function have gained huge importance in recent years. Numerous studies suggest that high cocoa content can have a beneficial effect on the brain, mood, and memory.
A couple of recent studies from Loma Linda University that a serving or two of dark chocolate may have a positive impact on mood, memory, and brain functioning.
In the first study, the healthy participants were asked to eat a 48-gram of dark chocolate (with 70% cacao and 30% organic cane sugar). Thereafter their brains were scanned with EEG (that measures brain chains). The team found an increase of gamma waves across multiple waves of the cortex which are related to cognition and memory.
However, it’s important to know that the changes in the wave were very significant during the earlier times and became normal at the last point.
In the second study, the participants were asked to eat the same amount of chocolate every day for a week. Their blood was collected every day after they had eaten the chocolate so the researchers could measure the changes in the expression of genes if there is any.
As a result of the study, it was found that genes involve in immune response were noticed a boost, and ones which involve in inflammation were reduced.
The results of these studies might be encouraging for people, but these were very small pilot studies. More research is needed to confirm the benefits and risks.
However, since these studies are published in peer-reviewed journals, you should consider them as preliminary.
So, if you’re a fan of you dark chocolate, you may carry on, as the research suggests.
5. Lowers the risk of stroke
New research breaks another delicious news for chocolate lovers.
The latest studies on dark chocolate confirm that moderate consumption of dark chocolate every day has been linked to slashing the risk of stroke.
A study recently carried out on Norfolk residents suggests that higher chocolate consumption could reduce the risk of future cardiovascular events, and there were no statistically significant evidence to avoid chocolate intake who are concerned about cardiovascular risks.
However, it’s important to know that the results of the study don’t conclusively link chocolate ingestion with the reduced risk of stroke.
6. May help people with diabetes
One of the most widely believed myths about people with type 2 diabetes is that you may force to say goodbye to all the sweets and after-dinner treats. Unfortunately, it’s true to some extent, but when it comes to dark chocolate, moderate consumption may help you lower your blood sugar level.
According to a study by The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, cocoa flavanols appear to be helping certain types of cells that promote the secretion of insulin for regulating the blood sugar level.
However, the author of the study suggests that you’ll have to consume to lot more cocoa and no sugar to enjoy all these diabetic benefits.
Another study carried out by ARYA Atheroscler report that participants who ate dark chocolate for eight weeks noticed a significant difference in fasting blood sugar and A1C levels while the participants who ate white chocolate had heeded no benefits at all.
7. Helps lowering blood pressure
Another delightful news for chocolate lovers.
Since dark chocolate contains flavanol-rich cocoa solids, it helps in relaxing the blood vessels and improves blood flow by supporting the production of nitric oxide (NO) and therefore contributes to the small but statistically significant decrease in the blood pressure, says Harvard School of Public Health.
However, a 2010 study found no difference in people with high blood pressure.
8. May help with weight loss
You may be surprised to know, but yes, dark chocolate can be your waist-whittling savior, but only as a smaller part of a balanced diet and exercise plan.
A 2014 paper in Nutrition found that kids eating chocolate showed less obesity.
Another 2014 study found similar results in adults. It was reported that higher consumption of chocolate had resulted in a noticeable reduction in body mass index, both in men and women.
This mainly happens due to the changes in appetite by eating dark chocolate that makes you feel full and eat less, according to Journal of Functional Foods.
9. Good for your skin
The bioactive compounds in dark chocolate can be very beneficial for your skin.
According to a study by Journal of Nutrition, flavonols can act as a protective covering for your skin, improves the blood flow, skin density, and hydration.
Another study by Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found that consuming dark chocolate (with a high amount of flavonols) for a period of 12 weeks can increase the number of MED, minimum amount of UVB rays required to cause skin redness.
10. Improves gut health
The sweet treat isn’t only mouth-watering but also good for your gut health.Several studies on cocoa and gut health report that it can actually be beneficial for increasing the friendly bacteria (which ferment both the antioxidants and fibers in the cocoa) and reduces the inflammation in the gut (7).
Despite the research-backed support, cocoa doesn’t equal chocolate. Dark chocolate with the highest portion of cocoa is better but it shouldn’t be consumed in excess, even it comes from the purest form of cocoa.
With that said, the team of researchers sent three different types (lightly processed, moderately processed, and Dutch-processed) of cocoa powder down the lab to test its impact on gut microbes.
As a result of this test, it was found that more mildly treated cocoa powder produced more beneficial results, as per Scientific American.
Before may you want to run out and buy a high-quality dark chocolate or candy bar, there are some health risks you must be aware of about this sweet treat.
1. High in caffeine content
According to the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, coffee and tea are usually darker in color and contain high amount of caffeine, but dark chocolate contains more caffeine than milk chocolate.
So, if you’re eating more dark chocolate, it means you’re consuming more caffeine which can lead to several negative side effects, such as:
- Increased heartbeat
On top of that, it can also cause a spike in blood pressure and may severely affect your sleep. So, if you’re suffering from an uplifted blood pressure level or sensitive to the effect of caffeine, you should either avoid consuming completely or in larger amounts, says LiveStrong.
2. May increase the chances of having a kidney stone
Dark chocolate is high in oxalates that can contribute to the formation of a most common type of kidney stones.
So, if you’re predisposed to the risk of kidney stone formation or you’ve ever had a kidney stone before, you must avoid stone-forming foods, including dark chocolate, says Harvard Medical School.
3. Possibly triggers migraine headaches
In addition to caffeine, dark chocolate also contains a stimulant, tyramine, which is thought to possibly trigger migraine headaches in some people, reports Clemson University.
However, the data is inconclusive and more studies are needed to understand the relationship between dark chocolate and migraine headache.
4. High in sugar
Dark chocolate is higher in saturated fats and sugar that may increase your blood sugar level unexpectedly. A single ounce of dark chocolate is nearly equal to 150 calories that mainly come from fats and sugar.
Excess fat and sugar consumption can increase your waistlines and may increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
However, it’s worth noting that it’s a rich source of powerful antioxidants and much beneficial than white or milk chocolate. So, it’s always recommended to intake this calorie-rich food in moderation.
Tips for buying high-quality dark chocolate
Here are some suggestions to narrow down the healthy choices of dark chocolate products:
- Choose high-quality dark chocolate. The darker, the better.
- Unsweetened dark chocolate can be the best bang for your buck as it contains no fat or sugar content and is packed with valuable antioxidants.
- Avoid chocolate products with hydrogenated fats or refined flour. Neither of them will be healthier for your physical and internal health.
- Don’t pick any dark chocolate product with labeling “artificial chocolate” or “chocolate flavored.” These limitations aren’t even close to real texture, flavor, or any health benefits.
Bottom Line: Should You Eat Dark Chocolate or Not?
So, ladies and gentlemen, there’s enough evidence that dark chocolate can provide a variety of health benefits and especially the ones that lower the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
But this never means you should go out and consume lots of chocolate every day. It can still cause negative side effects if overeaten.
Maybe you can have a square or two after dinner. If you want to enjoy most of its benefits, try consuming without any cream or sugar.
Don’t forget, there are plenty of chocolates available on the market, but not everyone is healthy. For a premium quality choice, always make sure that you pick the one with fewer and highly natural ingredients.
It’s one of the most delicious foods that taste awesome while providing you plenty of health benefits.
People who are interested in incorporating this into the daily routine should keep in mind, it’s high in fat and calories so the general rule of thumb is to stick to moderation at every possible turn.
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