The health benefits of dark chocolate have been well covered by the media, but ongoing research is revealing more wonderful news! Are you looking for an indulgent treat that you can feel good about eating? Maybe you already love chocolate but thought you had to cut out all candy. Well, I have good news — dark chocolate is a nature-based food that you can keep in your diet!
Unfortunately for all you milk chocolate lovers and super sweet tooths, it’s only dark chocolate that has the health benefits. Apparently the milk in the milk chocolate prevents the antioxidant benefits from being absorbed by the body. Also, “dark chocolate” with a lot of added sugar, isn’t truly dark. To get the maximum health benefits, you want to eat your chocolate as dark as possible; I’d say at least 75% pure chocolate. Keep in mind that candy isn’t the only way to enjoy chocolate either. There are a variety of ways to incorporate chocolate in both sweet and savory foods!
Nutritionally, dark chocolate is healthy because it’s loaded with flavonoids and minerals. It’s especially high in one flavanoid called epicathechin, which acts as an anti-oxidant and supports cardiovascular health. Chocolate is also a vasodialator (meaning it expands your blood vessels). A recent study demonstrated that dark chocolate causes a decrease in blood pressure and an increase in insulin sensitivity (both tremendous health benefits) shortly after eating. Another study demonstrated that dark chocolate causes the adhesion of platelets to artery walls to decrease, thus reducing the build up of arterial plaque.
The anti-oxidant benefits of dark chocolate also contribute to it’s ability to lessen the amount of skin damage caused by sun exposure, making it a great post sun-tanning treat (perhaps as a banana and dark chocolate smoothie?).
In addition to containing powerful antioxidants, dark chocolate also supplies an impressive list of nutrients, like iron, magnesium, copper, fiber, and protein. The magnesium chocolate contains is especially valuable, as many Americans are magnesium deficient (by about 100 mg per day). Magnesium is vital for optimum cardiovascular health and energy production. Finally, dark chocolate contains lots of pure energy from saturated fats! You may be surprised that I list this as a good thing, but saturated fats are easily used by the body as fuel, and they don’t cause a spike in insulin or throw off the important Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acid ratio.
If dark chocolate is too bitter for your taste, give it a few tries and it might grow on you! I eat an 85% dark chocolate bar on a regular basis and now the 72% bars taste too sweet and not complex enough in flavor. Trader Joe’s has a delicious 85% dark chocolate bar for only $1.49. CBH also offers Organic Cocoa Nibs (pure dark chocolate), which can be used in a variety of recipes. Try them out and enjoy – your heart and taste buds will thank you! If you have a favorite type of dark chocolate, share it with the rest of us by posting a comment below!
Originally posted 2011-03-18 06:12:00.