In recent years, chocolate — specifically dark chocolate — has received a lot of attention for its potential health benefits. But can it really be good for you?
It surely can’t replace the health benefits of eating a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables and lean meats, but if you have a craving for a little something sweet, dark chocolate is as close as you’ll get to a guilt-free treat.
Remember, all chocolate types should be consumed in moderation, it contains a high amount of fat. Check out some of the health benefits associated with dark chocolate.
Heart Health —The cocoa bean contains nutrients called flavonoids. These are antioxidants that help prevent free-radical damage to the body and heart. One type of flavonoid, called flavanols, has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow and help prevent the formation of blood clots. Consumption may also prevent the arteries from hardening.
Brain Health —The antioxidants that can benefit your heart can also improve cognitive function by increasing blood flow to the brain. Dark chocolate contains chemicals such as phenylethylamine (PEA) that boost mood and cognitive health. PEA encourages the brain to release endorphins, which make you feel happier. This sort of chocolate also contains some caffeine (about 27 mg in a 1.5-ounce serving).
Blood Sugar Control —The flavonoids in dark chocolate help reduce insulin resistance, allowing the body to use insulin efficiently. This kind of chocolate also has a low glycemic index, so it won’t spike your blood sugar levels like other sweets.
Disease Prevention — Dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants, which free the body of disease and cancer-causing free radicals. Eating antioxidant-rich foods like dark chocolate can slow the signs of aging and help protect you from diseases like cancer.
Dental Health — The theobromine in this kind of chocolate has been shown to harden tooth enamel, which, in conjunction with good oral hygiene, can lower your risk of getting cavities.
Nutrition — Perhaps most surprising, dark chocolate contains a number of vitamins and minerals in high concentrations, including potassium, copper, magnesium and iron. Each of these is important to support overall health.
Weight Management — Frequent consumption of small amounts of dark chocolate may help lower your body mass index (BMI). Read this study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine to learn more about BMI’s connection.
Good Vision — The flavanols in dark chocolate are known to help improve eyesight. This is likely due to the increased blood flow to the retina and the brain.