We all love eating chocolates, well most of us do. And it turns out that chocolate, apart from being tasty, has a host of health benefits as well. Made from the seed of the cocoa tree, it is one of the best sources of antioxidants on the planet.
Studies show that dark chocolate can improve health and lower risk of heart disease.
Here are 7 health benefits of dark chocolate or cocoa that are supported by science.
Nutritious: Chocolate with a high cocoa content is actually quite nutritious. It contains a decent amount of soluble fiber and is loaded with minerals. It also has plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.
Source of antioxidants: ORAC stands for “oxygen radical absorbance capacity.” It is a measure of the antioxidant activity of foods. Dark chocolate is loaded with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants. These include polyphenols, flavanols and catechins, among others.
Improves blood flow and lower blood pressure: The flavanols in dark chocolate can stimulate the endothelium, the lining of arteries, to produce nitric oxide (NO).
NO signals the arteries to relax, which lowers the resistance to blood flow and therefore reduces blood pressure.
Raises HDL and protects LDL from oxidation: Consuming dark chocolate can improve several important risk factors for heart disease. In a controlled study, cocoa powder was found to significantly decrease oxidized LDL cholesterol in men. It also increased HDL and lowered total LDL for those with high cholesterol.
Oxidized LDL means that the LDL ("bad" cholesterol) has reacted with free radicals.
Dark chocolate can also reduce insulin resistance, which is another common risk factor for many diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
May reduce heart disease risk: Compounds in dark chocolate appear to be highly protective against the oxidation of LDL and this should cause much less cholesterol to lodge in the arteries, resulting in a lower risk of heart disease
In a study of 470 elderly men, cocoa was found to reduce the risk of death from heart disease by a whopping 50 per cent over a 15 year period.
May protect skin from sun: Bioactive compounds in dark chocolate may also be great for skin as the flavonols in them can protect against sun damage, improve blood flow to the skin and increase skin density and hydration.
Improve brain function: Studies show that dark chocolate may also improve the function of brain. One study of healthy volunteers showed that eating high-flavanol cocoa for five days improved blood flow to the brain. Cocoa may also significantly improve cognitive function in elderly people with mental impairment. It may improve verbal fluency and several risk factors for disease, as well.