When I toured the Chocolate Museum in Belgium I took a test by answering questions to decide what chocolate would be best for me. I discovered that dark chocolate from Argentina would be the best. I love dark chocolate and now I know why!
There are some awesome health benefits to consuming dark chocolate. Of course, it is better to avoid chocolate that is heavy in sugar because it will cancel the health benefit of chocolate. I don’t know very many people who do not like chocolate. How come? In my opinion, their body loves it. For women, especially, love it.
According to Women’s Health Magazine, “The secret behind its powerful punch is cacao, also the source of the sweet’s distinct taste. Packed with healthy chemicals like flavonoids and theobromine, this little bean is a disease-killing bullet. The only problem? Cacao on its own is bitter, chalky, nasty stuff. Enter milk, sugar, and butter—good for your taste buds, not always good for your health. Besides adding calories, these can dilute the benefits of cacao. So snack smart: Stick to healthy chocolate with at least 70 percent cacao (or cocoa, which is cacao in its roasted, ground form).”
In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition cited the following benefits of chocolate:
The study pooled data from 42 randomized controlled trials that included 1,297 subjects and found consistent short and long-term cardiovascular benefits from intake of chocolate, cocoa, or cocoa flavanols—the antioxidant components of chocolate. Chocolate eating is associated with better toned blood vessels, blood flow, and maintenance of blood pressure. Additionally, chocolate eating is linked to better insulin sensitivity, a previously unreported finding.
The researchers evaluated several effects of cocoa flavanols on cardiovascular risk factors such as blood vessel elasticity (endothelial function), inflammation, and platelet function. Notably, chocolate appeared to help blood vessels become more elastic and flexible regardless of how much eaten per day.
For most of us, the quantity of chocolate we eat is not a problem, but as usual, quality is the key. The study results are no reason to overindulge in chocolate, the authors caution, as the sugar calories can quickly add up. Unless the goal is to gain weight, there still needs to be moderation in chocolate-eating habits.
Here are additional benefits cited:
Quality dark chocolate is rich in Fiber, Iron, Magnesium, Copper, Manganese, and a few other minerals.
Cocoa and dark chocolate have a variety of powerful antioxidants, way more than most other foods.
The bioactive compounds in cocoa can improve blood flow in the arteries and cause a small but statistically significant decrease in blood pressure.
Dark chocolate improves several important risk factors for disease. It lowers the susceptibility of LDL to oxidative damage while increasing HDL and improving insulin sensitivity.
Observational studies show a drastic reduction in heart disease risk for the people who consume the most chocolate.
Studies show that the flavanols from cocoa can improve blood flow to the skin and protect it against sun-induced damage.
Regular consumption of chocolate can support insulin sensitivity. The Kuna Indians of the San Blas islands of Panama are serious about their chocolate, as their daily routine includes consuming multiple doses of a cocoa beverage high in flavanols (phytonutrients that are considered to have antioxidant properties). In addition to exhibiting healthy cardiovascular and blood vessel function, the prevalence of diabetes among the Kuna Indians is also almost non-existent.
Consumption of 40 g of Dark and Milk chocolate daily during a period of 2 weeks appear to be an effective way to reduce perceived stress in females, according to one study.
The Negative to Chocolate
Almost all the reports on the negative side effects of chocolate have to do with the sugars that are added and not necessarily due to the chocolate.
According to LiveStrong.com, “Gastroesophageal reflux is a condition in which the stomach contents come back up into your esophagus, resulting in heartburn. Chocolate causes your lower esophageal sphincter to relax, which enables the stomach contents to travel back upward, giving you that burning sensation behind your chest. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse recommends that you avoid chocolate to help control GERD.”
They go on to say, “Caffeine stimulates your central nervous system, which is a why a piece of chocolate may perk you up when the workday starts to drag, but caffeine has no nutritional value. If you eat too many caffeine-containing foods such as chocolate, you may experience rapid heartbeat, anxiety, depression, restlessness, sleep problems, tremors, nausea, and vomiting, according to Medline Plus. Dark chocolate contains more caffeine than milk chocolate, and both contain theobromine, which is a substance closely related to caffeine.”
According to Dr. James Wilson’s blog, AdrenalFatigue.org, chocolate would best be avoided for those who suffer from adrenal fatigue. We read, “If you have a piece of chocolate once or twice a year, you can probably skip this section. However, if you crave chocolate, would almost be willing to kill for chocolate, or if chocolate is a coveted part of your diet, then you need to read this. A craving for chocolate can sometimes actually be your body’s craving for magnesium since chocolate contains large amounts of magnesium. This is especially true in women who crave chocolate before they menstruate or who have PMS. Magnesium helps mediate the symptoms of PMS because it is intimately involved in the manufacture of progesterone. A lack of magnesium can lead to inadequate progesterone levels, producing the PMS symptoms. In the body’s wisdom, it craves chocolate because chocolate is rich in magnesium. The unfortunate aspect, however, is that chocolate is also high in caffeine and a caffeine-like substance, theobromine, that over stimulate the adrenals leading to further adrenal fatigue.