Today, Friday, February 15, 2019

Does Chocolate Provide Significant Nutritional Benefits?

Chocolate has long been viewed as something of a guilty pleasure, mostly used as a dessert and studiously avoided by those watching their weight or seeking to enhance their health.  Yet chocolate is actually a derivative of the cocoa plant; and hence, it has been found to contain many of the health benefits associated with the consumption of vegetables.  Certain types of dark chocolate, in particular, contain a high number of flavonoids (in particular, TAC and procyanidins), which are notable for their antioxidant capabilities (i.e., reducing the risk of blood clots, controlling blood pressure, and eradicating or ameliorating the factors leading to hardening of the arteries by preventing the oxidation of lipoproteins).

Raw, unprocessed dark chocolate actually contains a remarkably high level of antioxidants, approximately equivalent to eight times the levels found in strawberries, the latter of which has been rated as one of the higher foods on the antioxidant measurement scales. 

Flavonoids contained in dark chocolate are markedly higher in flavonoids than their counterparts of milk chocolate or baking chocolate, for example. In general, researchers have determined that the type and amount of processing of the natural cocoa powder was directly correlated to higher antioxidant values.

Dark Chocolate Benefits Your Heart
It is, in fact, well established that dark chocolate is beneficial for your heart.  A 2003 study conducted at the University of Cologne, Germany and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that eating dark chocolate may lower systolic blood pressure by 5 points and diastolic blood pressure by an average of 2 points through the regulation of nitric oxide.

In addition, dark chocolate has been shown to impact the oxidation rate of LDL cholesterol in the blood stream by 10%; a considerable benefit as high levels of LDL have been proven to be a leading causative factor in atherosclerosis.      

Consuming a small bar of raw, unprocessed dark chocolate each day is certainly one rather easy option to bolster cardiovascular function.    

Additional Benefits of Chocolate

In spite of getting a bad rap for causing cavities and triggering breakouts, in truth, chocolate benefits us in a great many ways.  Beyond the obvious ways dark chocolate benefits our heart, chocolate may actually make us feel good.

While this is probably not exactly breaking news to some, there are in fact scientific reasons why this is so.

Eating chocolate can stimulate endorphin and serotonin production, which makes it something of a natural anti-depressant. Chocolate also contains caffeine and theobromine, which are both stimulants.  This is perhaps why chocolate is such an effective pick-me-up when we are feeling down or depleted.

More Good News

Chocolate, in relation to how sweet it is, is actually rather low in fat.  And in fact some of the fats in chocolate do not have an impact on cholesterol levels at all.  One of the fats in dark chocolate, oleic acid is a healthy monounsaturated fat that can also be found in olive oil.

Chocolate has also been shown to increase the flow of blood.  One research study found that drinking flavonoid-rich cocoa made from semi-sweet chocolate had the same blood-thinning effect as aspirin on a test group of twenty to forty year olds.

Chocolate is Good For You, To a Point
So it can be argued that chocolate is good for the body, somewhat.  In this case the old saying "everything in moderation" is appropriate.  While chocolate offers some significant health benefits, it would not be advisable to over-consume it.  After all, those flavonoids and good fat come bundled with a fair amount of not-so-good fat and caffeine.  So, the benefits are only seen when eaten in small quantities.

For anyone seeking the antioxidant benefits of chocolate, it is important to keep in mind that only dark chocolate offers these benefits.  To be considered dark, chocolate must contain at least 65% cocoa.   When it comes to health benefits, not even all dark chocolate is created equally.  Standard chocolate manufacturing processes can destroy up to half of the flavonoids.  So, in order to get the most antioxidant benefit, look for raw, unprocessed chocolates, or chocolate that is processed in a manner that allows it to maintain its level of flavonoids.  Also, choose the highest percentage of cocoa available.

Sign up for our Newsletter
Email Address:

Contact Us