December 20, 2022
During the holiday season, we tend to allow ourselves some indulgences, and perhaps one of the most common of these is savoring some sweet chocolate. In addition to delighting our tastebuds, could this treat also provide our bodies with health benefits? For centuries, humans have consumed chocolate for its healing properties. Before you run out to fill your shopping cart with king-size chocolate bars, arm yourself with the facts about this decadent confection.
When faced with a platter of milk, white, or dark chocolate, be sure to select the dark variety because it is lower in added sugar and milk than the other two options. Milk chocolate and dark chocolate are made from the seeds of the cacao tree, but dark chocolate contains a higher percentage of cocoa solids that can provide some health benefits. Interestingly, white chocolate is comprised of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk, so it is technically not chocolate. You will receive more health benefits from dark chocolate that has a cacao content of 70 percent or higher. The higher the percentage of cacao, the lower the percentage of added milk and sugar.
Dark chocolate is an excellent source of antioxidants, substances found in food that can help prevent cell damage. Flavanols, a group of compounds in cocoa, are known for their antioxidant properties, and offer us the following:
- Lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Protection from heart disease.
- Reduced risk of diabetes.
- Improved blood flow to the brain to promote cognitive function.
- Healthy skin. In addition to helping mitigate some of the negative effects of the sun’s harmful rays, flavanols keep our skin hydrated and may reduce wrinkles.
Dark chocolate’s polyphenols, another group of compounds in plant foods, also have antioxidant properties and offer us:
- Protection against certain cancers, neurodegenerative diseases, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes.
- A mood boost–polyphenols lower cortisol, which is a stress hormone. They also contribute to the production of serotonin, which is the “feel good” hormone.
Dark chocolate is a good source of the following minerals:
- Iron- promotes blood cell health.
- Magnesium- linked to a reduction in anxiety.
- Zinc- supports immunity.
- Phosphorus- keeps bones and teeth healthy.
- Copper- an essential mineral our bodies need to stay healthy.
- Potassium- required for normal cell function.
The tasty treat also benefits our gut health. An excellent source of fiber, dark chocolate increases the good bacteria in our gut while decreasing the bad bacteria. Maintaining a healthy balance of microorganisms within our digestive systems is crucial for well-being.
Keep in mind that dark chocolate is a high-calorie food, so enjoy it in moderation. A suggestion for daily intake is one-to-two ounces.
Chances are, you’ll enjoy several tasty treats this holiday season. If it’s chocolate that’s tempting your taste buds, consider dark chocolate for its health benefits.
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