Dark chocolate has many potential benefits.
Dark chocolate contains a ton of nutrients. Of course, the darker the chocolate the better, but any 70 percent dark chocolate or higher contains antioxidants, fiber, potassium, calcium, copper, and magnesium, according to a study published in the journal Antioxidants & Redox Signaling. It also contains a good chunk of calories and fat, so be mindful of your daily intake. Each brand of chocolate is also processed differently; Amidor says going organic is always best because it’s grown without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and recommends always checking the ingredient list to make sure you are consuming chocolate with fewer additives and more natural ingredients.
Lets examine the other benefits of dark chocolate
1. Chocolate Is Good for Your Gut and May Help With Weight Loss
Eating chocolate every day probably seems like the last way to lose weight, but research suggests dark chocolate may play a role in controlling appetite, which in turn could help with weight loss. Neuroscientist Will Clower, PhD, wrote a whole book on the subject called Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight, which describes how eating a bit of dark chocolate before or after meals triggers hormones that signal to the brain you’re full. Of course, eating more than the recommended amount per day can counteract any potential weight loss.
Studies cited in an article published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology furthermore noted that during digestion, chocolate behaves like a prebiotic (not to be confused with probiotic), a type of fiber that encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. The more “good” microbes are in your system, the better your body is able to absorb nutrients as well as support a healthy metabolism, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
2. It Fights Free Radicals and May Play a Role in Cancer Prevention
Evidence that dark chocolate possesses properties that could help protect people from certain types of cancer is limited but growing. Antioxidants protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals, which are unstable oxygen molecules thought to be responsible for aging and disease, per an article published in January 2015 in the Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry.
“When you have too many free radicals in your body, they start to attack your cells, and that can lead, over time, to low-grade inflammation and to some diseases — cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s,” Dr. DuBost says.
Some studies, such as one published in the Journal of the American Society of Hypertension, have shown that people who eat many flavonoids or antioxidant-rich chocolate develop fewer cancers than those who don’t consume them. Of the many flavonoids in chocolate, two in particular, epicatechin and quercetin, are believed to be responsible for the cancer-fighting properties.
Still, most studies are limited in using only animals or cell cultures, and the amount of chocolate needed to potentially yield preventative action against cancers is much higher than the daily recommended dose for humans, noted a review published in The Netherlands Journal of Medicine.
3. It's Good for Your Skin (in More Ways Than One)
The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health lists vitamins and minerals dark chocolate is packed full of — like copper, iron, and magnesium, to name a few — that are also beneficial to your skin. Manganese, for example, supports the production of collagen, a protein that helps keep skin looking young and healthy. Other minerals, like calcium, help repair and renew skin, which is pretty important because, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, our bodies can shed up to 40,000 skin cells each day! Several earlier studies have also found the high levels of antioxidants in dark chocolate may protect skin from the powerful ultraviolet (UV) rays emitted by the sun.
Other research, like a study published in June 2014 in Nutrition Journal, failed to show any significant protective effects of antioxidant-rich chocolate against UV rays, but did show improvements in the elasticity of skin exposed to the sun, although the exact mechanism of this isn’t known.
4. Dark Chocolate May Send Good Cholesterol up, Bad Cholesterol Down
Dark chocolate is also touted as a cholesterol-lowering food. A handful of almonds, dark chocolate, and unsweetened cocoa showed a significant drop in low-density lipoproteins (LDL), also known as “bad” cholesterol, which in high amounts can clog arteries, in a study published in November 2017 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
DuBost says the cocoa butter in dark chocolate may also play a part in raising high-density lipoproteins (HDL), or “good” cholesterol. Cocoa butter contains oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated fat — the same fat you find in heart-healthy olive oil, notes the U.S. Library of Medicine. However, unlike olive oil, cocoa butter is also high in saturated fat (per the U.S. Department of Agriculture), which in excess can be harmful to the heart, further emphasizing the need for portion control.
Not to mention, many of the studies on chocolate and good cholesterol are short term, so it’s premature to say that chocolate is a cholesterol cure-all, DuBost adds.
BETTER HEALTH & BEYOND Editorial Team
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