Dark Chocolate: Why This Treat is Better for Your Health Than You Think

Chocolate is a treat that many people have been told is bad for them. “It’s high in calories,” “it has too much sugar,” and “you should eat something healthier,” are just a few of the things people hear when they go to grab a piece of dark chocolate over a piece of fruit.

But it may be better to indulge in dark chocolate than you have been led to believe.

Dark Chocolate vs Milk Chocolate: What is the Difference?

Sadly, milk chocolate is quite different from dark chocolate. You need to make sure that if you are trying to eat dark chocolate for its health benefits, the chocolate is the right kind.

The differences are substantial:

  • Dark chocolate contains 50% to 90% cocoa solids and butter and sugar.
  • Milk chocolate contains 10% to 50% of the ingredients above and a form of milk.

If you buy the cheaper milk chocolate, you may also find additional ingredients, such as vegetable oils, colorings, and fats.

The cocoa is what really gives you the health benefits of dark chocolate.

You want to choose the chocolate that has the highest cocoa content because this is where you will consume the most flavonoids and reap the benefits of high antioxidant count.

What Health Benefits Does Dark Chocolate Have Anyway?

Dark chocolate is filled with antioxidants, which are good for you on their own, but there is so much more to eating this type of chocolate. A few of the benefits that most people do not realize come from this chocolate are:

Blood Flow Improvements

Blood flow can be improved, according to one study. The study found that this chocolate can stimulate the body’s endothelium. What is an endothelium? It is the artery’s lining that is responsible for the production of nitric oxide.

Nitric oxide plays an integral role in helping the arteries relax by lowering blood flow resistance.

There have been multiple additional studies that show dark chocolate can reduce blood pressure thanks to lowering blood flow resistance.

It should be noted that while a lot of studies have shown the possibility of improving blood flow and lowering pressure, more studies are needed to verify these claims.

Helps Fight Back Against “Bad” Cholesterol

Bad cholesterol, also known as LDL, is altered when consuming dark chocolate. In men with high cholesterol, cocoa was shown to decrease oxidized LDL cholesterol and improve “good” cholesterol known as HDL.

When LDL is oxidized, this means that it can cause damage to your tissues and arteries.

Dark chocolate was shown to reduce this bad cholesterol thanks to the powerful antioxidants found in chocolate. There is also evidence that chocolate will reduce insulin resistance, which is beneficial for people that are susceptible to diabetes or heart disease.

Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease

Speaking of heart disease, there is some evidence that the compounds in dark chocolate protect your heart against the oxidation of LDL. What does this mean anyway? It means:

  • Cholesterol is less likely to become lodged in your arteries
  • Death from heart disease may be reduced by 50%
  • Reduced calcified plaque in the arteries

One study linked consuming dark chocolate just twice per week with a reduction in calcified plaque in the arteries by as much as 32%. If you are thinking that you can consume more chocolate for even more benefits, you would be wrong.

The study found that consuming more chocolate did not have a greater impact on reducing calcified plaque.

But there was another study that suggests eating chocolate up to five times weekly was able to reduce the risk of heart disease by as much as 57%.

Improve Brain Function

Want to improve the blood flow to your brain? Chocolate can help. High-flavanol cocoa eaten over the course of five days was shown to improve the blood flow in the brain. Additional studies show that older people may be able to benefit from eating dark chocolate even more than younger people.

Studies on older adults found that dark chocolate was able to significantly improve cognitive function. The stimulating effects of cocoa are thought to be responsible for this improvement in brain function.

Loads of Other Dark Chocolate Benefits

The benefits that we have just covered are only some of the health benefits of eating dark chocolate. There are a lot of additional benefits, some that come from studies and some that you can experience after eating just a few pieces. These include:

  • Stimulating effect that helps you stay energized
  • High levels of magnesium and zinc
  • Improve your mood
  • Some evidence of metabolic improvement
  • May help improve gut health
  • May reduce the risk of certain cancers
  • Improves skin health

Dark chocolate is more than just a delicious treat –it is also a nice boost to your health. It is easy to walk into the store and pick up a milk chocolate that is low on cocoa content and high on milk and sugar, but your body will thank you for choosing dark chocolate instead.

How to Choose a Good Dark Chocolate

If you go into the grocery store, you will find dozens of chocolate bars to choose from with fancy packaging. It is tempting to try chocolate bars with creamy fillings or other added ingredients, but this is not the best way for you to choose a dark chocolate bar.

Instead, you want to look for:

  • Solid chocolate bars without all the goodies added in
  • Cocoa concentrations of 70% or higher

If you see that the chocolate is made using “dutching” or is “alkalized,” it is going to lose a lot of its antioxidants in the process. In fact, studies show that you should be avoiding Dutched chocolate for this very reason.

A few additional points to keep in mind is that you should choose your dark chocolate responsibly, looking for chocolate that is:

  • Fair-trade
  • Organic

Organic chocolates have less exposure to chemicals and pesticides, which make their way into the cocoa. Fair-trade practices ensure that those that are growing and gathering the cocoa beans are compensated fairly.

Now, all that is left to do is eat a few small pieces of chocolate per day to experience the benefits of dark chocolate for yourself.

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