Presse Santé

7 Proven Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is packed with nutrients that can have a positive effect on your health. Made from the seed of the cacao tree, it is one of the best sources of antioxidants you can find. Studies show that dark chocolate can improve your health and lower your risk of heart disease.

Here are 7 science-backed health benefits of dark chocolate or cacao.

1. Highly nutritious

If you buy quality dark chocolate with a high cocoa content, it is very nutritious. It contains a decent amount of soluble fiber and is loaded with minerals.
A 100 gram bar of dark chocolate with 70-85% cocoa contains:

11 grams of fiber
67% of daily iron intake
58% of the recommended daily value of magnesium
89% AN for copper
98% NA for manganese
In addition, it contains a lot of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.

Of course, 100 grams is quite a large amount and should not be consumed on a daily basis. These nutrients also come with 600 calories and moderate amounts of sugar. That is why dark chocolate should be consumed in moderation. The fatty acid profile of cocoa and dark chocolate is also good. Fats are primarily made up of oleic acid (a heart-healthy fat also found in olive oil), stearic acid, and palmitic acid.

Stearic acid has a neutral effect on body cholesterol. Palmitic acid can raise cholesterol levels, but it only makes up a third of total calories from fat. Dark chocolate also contains stimulants such as caffeine and theobromine, but it is unlikely to keep you awake at night as the amount of caffeine is very low compared to coffee.

2. A powerful source of antioxidants

Dark chocolate is loaded with biologically active organic compounds that work as antioxidants. These include, but are not limited to, polyphenols, flavanols, and catechins. One study showed that cocoa and dark chocolate had more antioxidant activity, polyphenols, and flavanols than all other fruits tested, including blueberries and acai berries.

3. Can improve blood circulation and lower blood pressure

The flavanols in dark chocolate can stimulate the endothelium, the lining of the arteries, to produce nitric oxide (NO). One of NO’s jobs is to signal the arteries to relax, which reduces resistance to blood flow and thus lowers blood pressure. Numerous controlled studies show that cocoa and dark chocolate can improve blood flow and lower blood pressure, although the effects are generally mild.
Given the wide variation between studies on this topic, it is clear that more research is needed.

4. Increases HDL and protects LDL from oxidation.

The consumption of dark chocolate can improve several important risk factors for heart disease. In a controlled study, cocoa powder was found to significantly lower oxidized LDL (bad cholesterol) in men. It also raised HDL and lowered total LDL in people with high cholesterol. Oxidized LDL means that the LDL cholesterol has reacted with free radicals. This makes the LDL particle itself reactive and capable of damaging other tissues, such as the lining of the heart’s arteries. It makes a lot of sense that cocoa would lower oxidized LDL levels. It contains a large number of powerful antioxidants that pass into the blood and protect lipoproteins against oxidative damage. The flavanols in dark chocolate can also reduce insulin resistance, which is another common risk factor for conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

5. May reduce the risk of heart disease

Dark chocolate compounds appear to have a highly protective effect against LDL oxidation. In the long term, this should allow much less cholesterol to lodge in the arteries, thus a lower risk of heart disease. In fact, several long-term observational studies show quite a drastic improvement. In a study of 470 older men, cocoa was found to reduce the risk of death from heart disease by 50% over 15 years. Another study found that eating chocolate two or more times a week reduced the risk of calcified plaque in the arteries by 32%. Eating chocolate less frequently had no effect. Another study showed that eating dark chocolate more than five times a week reduced the risk of heart disease by 57%.

6. It can protect your skin from the sun

The bioactive compounds in dark chocolate can also benefit your skin. Flavanols can protect against sun damage, improve blood flow to the skin, and increase skin density and hydration.
The minimal erythemal dose (MED) is the minimum amount of UVB rays needed to cause skin redness 24 hours after exposure. In a study of 30 people, the MED more than doubled after consuming flavonoid-rich dark chocolate for 12 weeks. If you’re planning a beach vacation, consider consuming a little more dark chocolate in the weeks and months leading up to it. But check with your doctor or dermatologist before forgoing your usual skincare routine to consume more dark chocolate.

7. May improve brain function

The good news does not end there. Dark chocolate might also improve brain function. A study in healthy volunteers showed that consuming high-flavonoid cocoa for 5 days improved blood flow to the brain. Cocoa can also significantly improve cognitive function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment. It can also improve verbal fluency and several disease risk factors.
Additionally, cocoa contains stimulants such as caffeine and theobromine, which could be a key reason why it can improve brain function in the short term (26).

* Presse Santé strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information provided can not replace the opinion of a health professional.

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