Dark chocolate is a popular variety of chocolate made from cocoa seeds. It contains higher amounts of cocoa (cacao) and much lesser amounts of milk. Some of them contain small amounts of sugar, while others contain no sugar at all.
Cocoa is rich in naturally occurring minerals and antioxidants from cocoa seeds. These antioxidants can protect cells from oxidative damage. In this article, we will discuss on how the consumption of dark chocolate can prove beneficial for health.
Dark Chocolate Nutritional Facts
According to USDA data, a 100-gram bar of dark chocolate of 70 - 85% cocoa contains:
- 604 calories
- 7.87 grams of protein
- 43.06 grams of fat
- 46.36 grams of carbohydrates
- 11.00 grams of dietary fiber
- 24.23 grams of sugar
- 12.02 mg of iron
- 230.00 mg of magnesium
- 3.34 mg of zinc
Other beneficial compounds present in dark chocolate include:
Check out the seven reasons why chocolate is good for your health.
Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
Minerals and antioxidants present in cocoa play important roles in essential functions in the body.
These minerals are required for enzymatic functions, electrolyte balance, and muscle contraction. They're also among the best fiber-rich foods. The antioxidant compounds are known to prevent several lifestyle diseases.
Here are the proven health benefits of cocoa:
1) May help reduce blood pressure
The flavonoids present in dark chocolate stimulate the blood vessels to produce nitric oxide, a gas that's known to have blood vessel relaxant properties.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Medicine indicated that flavan-3-ols in cocoa can improve blood flow and reduce blood pressure. Further research is required to understand the prospects of cocoa flavonoids in clinical therapeutics.
Learn how to control your blood pressure naturally.
2) Prevents oxidation of LDL
The beneficial compounds present in dark chocolate have strong antioxidant properties.
These antioxidants can prevent the oxidation of bad cholesterol and other harmful fatty acids, including omega-6 fatty acids. Oxidation of fats can cause inflammation in the body, leading to liver damage and heart disease. It has to be kept in mind that products containing sugar can have the opposite effect.
Check out the best natural ways to lower cholesterol.
3) May prevent heart disease
Studies published in Frontiers of Nutrition have shown that consuming flavanol-rich cocoa or chocolate can improve heart health.
Further studies are required to learn whether these compounds can be beneficial to patients with heart disease. From the existing studies, we can conclude that the consumption of cocoa can reduce the occurrence of heart disease.
You can also try out these diet and lifestyle changes to boost your heart health.
4) Might boost brain health
Chocolate is among the foods that boost brain and memory. Flavonoids are also known to improve memory and concentration. These compounds also prevent the oxidation of fatty acids that constitute the brain.
Preliminary research suggests that these active compounds might reduce the chances of dementia and other neurodegenerative disorders. Dark chocolate contains substances like caffeine and theobromine that act as stimulants. These stimulant chemicals might contribute to short-term benefits.
Dark Chocolate Recipe
Chocolate products available in the market often contain added sugar, artificial sweeteners, colors, and flavors. You can prepare this healthy and easy recipe at home.
- 1/2 cup of coconut oil
- 4 tablespoons of honey
- 1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
- A pinch of sea salt
- 1 cup of unprocessed 100% cocoa powder
- Stevia as a sweetener (optional)
- Melt the coconut oil in a pot over medium heat.
- Add honey, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt.
- Remove the mixture from the heat. Add the cocoa powder, and mix well till it's dissolved into the mixture. Remove any lumps with a whisk.
- You can add stevia at this stage for sweetness.
- Pour the chocolate mixture into silicone molds, and keep it in the freezer for at least 30 minutes or in the refrigerator for an hour.
- Pop out the chocolate from the tray once they're hardened, and enjoy.
Dark chocolate can prove beneficial to health when consumed in moderate amounts.
It's advisable to check the percentage of cocoa while purchasing any dark chocolate. Chocolate products with no added sugar are the healthiest ones to consider. However, consuming excess chocolate might not yield extra benefits.