Chocolates are produced from the seeds of Theobroma cacao, commonly known as cacao tree. The tree is native to tropical rain forests of South America and holds significant importance for its beans or seeds that are used for cocoa powder, and cocoa butter. The cocoa beans are then crushed and grounded to get cocoa liquor. Then this cocoa liquor is processed further by mixing sugar and fat and finally you get your favorite chocolate.
Dark chocolate is loaded with nutrients that can positively affect your health. Made from the seed of the cocoa tree, it is one of the best sources of antioxidants on the planet.
1. Reduces the Risk of Heart Attack
A few squares of dark chocolate a day can reduce the risk of death from heart attack by almost 50% in some cases, says Diane Becker, MPH, ScD, a researcher with the John Hopkins University School of Medicine. Becker’s research found that blood platelets clotted more slowly in people who had eaten chocolate than in those who had not. This is significant because when platelets clump, a clot can form, and when the clot blocks a blood vessel, it can lead to a heart attack.
2. Improves Arterial Blood Flow
Healthy men who consume flavanol-rich cocoa may see improvements in the flow of blood through their arteries, according to recent research. The researchers found that when healthy men consumed the flavanol-rich cocoa, the ability of their blood vessels to relax improved significantly. And arterial blood flow is important for cardiovascular health.
3. Helps People with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
In a small study in England, 1 1/2 ounces of 85% cocoa dark chocolate was given to a group of adults with chronic fatigue syndrome every day for eight weeks. In the study, which has been submitted for publication, the participants reported feeling less fatigued after eating the chocolate. Surprisingly, no weight gain was reported in the chocolate-eating group, according to researcher Steve Atkin, PhD.
How might it work? The researchers believe that chocolate enhances the action of neurotransmitters, like serotonin, which help regulate mood and sleep. More research needs to be done to confirm a benefit in this area.
4. Good for Your Brain
Dark chocolate increases blood flow to the brain as well as to the heart, so it can help improve cognitive function. Dark chocolate also helps reduce your risk of stroke.
Dark chocolate also contains several chemical compounds that have a positive effect on your mood and cognitive health. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), the same chemical your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. PEA encourages your brain to release endorphins, so eating dark chocolate will make you feel happier.
Dark chocolate also contains caffeine, a mild stimulant. However, dark chocolate contains much less caffeine than coffee. A 1.5 ounce bar of dark chocolate contains 27 mg of caffeine, compared to the 200 mg found in an eight ounce cup of coffee.
5. Controls Blood Sugar
Good news for diabetics! Dark chocolate ranks low on Glycemic index, which means it won’t spike your sugar levels. The flavonoids present in dark chocolate reduce insulin resistance and helps your body to efficiently use the insulin. Claudio Ferri, M.D., a professor at the University of L’Aquila in Italy says, “Flavonoids increase nitric oxide production, and that helps control insulin sensitivity.”
6. Weight Loss Benefits of Dark Chocolate
Did you know that dark chocolate can actually help you to lose weight? A research conducted at the University of Copenhagen, revealed that dark chocolate gives you a more filling effect and lessens your cravings for fatty, sweet and salty foods. So if you incorporate a little portion to your diet you can get optimum health benefits without a weight gain. A cup of hot chocolate is also beneficial for reducing appetite.
7. Full of Antioxidants
Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants. Antioxidants help free your body of free radicals, which cause oxidative damage to cells. Free radicals are implicated in the aging process and may be a cause of cancer, so eating antioxidant rich foods like dark chocolate can protect you from many types of cancer and slow the signs of aging.
8. Protects Skin
German researchers found that the flavonoids in dark chocolate absorb UV light, help protect and increase blood flow to the skin, and improve skin’s hydration and complexion.
For all of its health benefits, though, dark chocolate does contain a lot of calories. So, experts recommend sticking to no more than three ounces of the sweet stuff per day.
9. Provides Cough Relief
Dark chocolates contain theobromine, a chemical that is effective for treating cough. It is as effective as codeine, but unlike codeine it does not cause dullness and tastes far better than it. Maria Belviai, a professor at the National Heart and Lung Institute, in London, says about chocolate that, “It had none of the negative side effects.”
10. Dark Chocolate Treats Diarrhea
The use of cocoa for treating diarrhea can be traced back to the 16th Century in European and South American cultures. Researchers at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute found that the flavonoids present in the cocoa help to bind the protein, responsible for regulating fluid secretion in the intestine, this results in a relief from diarrhea.