This may be the best news you will get all day, especially if you’re a chocolate lover: dark chocolate is actually good for you. That’s really sweet news for all of us chocolate lovers, but before we go into all of dark chocolate’s wonderful properties, a word of caution: most of the product consumed today is in the form of sweet chocolate, which combines chocolate with sugar. And we know all about sugar and the problems it causes.
So before you start to devour large quantities of chocolate as if it were health food, be aware that it is high in natural cocoa butter, fat, and high in calories. Plus what is added, such as other fats, sugars and milk can dramatically increase the calorie content. Other forms of chocolate, including milk and white chocolate, have even additional additives that increase its calorie content.
What is the secret ingredient in dark chocolate that makes it so healthy? The answer is catechins. Comparing the content of catechins in dark chocolate, milk chocolate and tea, dark chocolate contained the highest concentration of this important antioxidant. They are part of the family called flavonoids, and if you know what you’re looking for in dark chocolate and eat the right kind in moderation, here are some of the health benefits you will be getting.
1. Antioxidants. In laboratory tests the catechins have proven beneficial in inhibiting the growth of cancer cells. They are able to prevent the activity of free radicals, which are molecules that cause cell damage which can lead to cancer.
2. Mood enhancer. Chocolate contains the chemical serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant. These stimulate the production of endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that enhances pleasure.
3. Protects the skin. The flavonoids in dark chocolate absorb UV light, therefore helping to improve the skins hydration and increase blood flow.
4. Reducing blood pressure. A study in Great Britain found that people eating just 7.5 grams of chocolate daily were at 39% lower risk for having a heart attack or stroke as opposed to those who ate just 7 grams. Another study found that people who ate just moderate amounts of chocolate had a significantly positive influence on blood pressure. The research stated that the flavonoids in chocolate increased the flow of blood around the brain.
Clearly chocolate can have some health benefits for you, but just as clearly there is a point of diminishing returns as far as chocolate consumption goes. The benefits were associated with fairly small amounts of chocolate consumed. Even the highest consumption of chocolate in the test amounted to about one square of chocolate a day or half a small chocolate Easter egg in a week.
So if you are thinking of taking dark chocolate for medicinal purposes, the medicine should come in small doses, indeed. One hundred grams of dark chocolate contains roughly 500 calories, and if you look at recommended caloric intake you will find that will take a huge chunk of what you should be consuming on a daily basis.