Anyone who has ever visited Louisiana, knows they’re famous for their desserts, like pecan pralines, king cake or bananas Foster. That makes it difficult if you’re trying to lose weight or live a healthier lifestyle. The good news is that you don’t have to give up sweets entirely to live healthier. In fact, dark chocolate actually has some health benefits. Of course, it doesn’t mean you can eat several bars in one setting or ignore the fact that it’s part of a doberge cake. Eating one small square or a few dark chocolate bits in trail mix may actually make you healthier and satisfy your urge for sweets.
What is considered dark chocolate?
You probably can tell the difference between milk chocolate and dark chocolate immediately when you look at the color, but finding the healthiest dark chocolate requires you read the package. Healthy dark chocolate has 70% more cacao and less sugar. It has polyphenols, those are antioxidants. When milk is added to cocoa, the milk interferes with the body’s absorption of the antioxidants. If you get the healthiest dark chocolate, somewhere between 70-85% cacao, it contains magnesium, copper, manganese, iron, fiber selenium, phosphorus and potassium. It also contains fiber, which most never suspect.
Dark chocolate is best known for its heart healthy benefits.
Nitric oxide is important to help arteries relax, which makes them wider and lowers blood pressure. Dark chocolate increases nitric oxide. It does even more for the heart. It helps improve the cholesterol profile, while provides help to prevent blood clotting and lower the inflammation that’s linked to heart disease. The wider blood vessels from nitric oxide allows blood to circulate more freely. That blood supplies oxygen and nutrients to every cell in the body, which includes both the heart and the lungs.
The combination of flavonoids and other antioxidants reduce the risk of cancer.
Dark chocolate contains antioxidants called flavonoids that help prevent inflammation. They also stop free radicals from causing damage to cells, particularly the cells of the colon. Studies show that consuming small amounts of dark chocolate may aid in the reduction of colon cancer. The anti-inflammatory properties also provide aid by limiting oxidative stress and blocking the growth of cancer cells.
- One large study of 20,000 people that lasted 11 years, found a link to cardiovascular health and dark chocolate. The more often people ate dark chocolate, the lower the incidence of cardiovascular disease.
- If you have a problem with insulin resistance, but still want a treat for the day, make it no more than one ounce of dark chocolate that’s at least 70% cacao or higher. The higher the better.
- The increased flow of blood to the brain and flavanol in dark chocolate has links to reducing the risk of Parkinson’s disease, dementia and Alzheimer’s. Studies that focused on the antioxidants found in dark chocolate found they improved cognitive performance and brain function.
- Dark chocolate may be a new beauty aid. The flavanol it contains may help protect your skin from sun damage and even improve your skin, making it smoother.