Health benefits of dark chocolate

Los efectos benéficos para la salud del chocolate negro

Dark chocolate, as it is made from cocoa contains antioxidants and minerals which are beneficial for our health.

No introduction is needed to chocolate, a very much appreciated comfort food. We all know that chocolate is the best treat after a long and tiring day, when we are happy or when we are sad and it can give us energy during a stressful exam. Chocolate used to be criticised for its fat and sugar content and associated with among others obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and acne. The good news is that if you prefer dark chocolate there is no need to feel guilty for eating the beloved treat every day. Actually chocolate, more precisely flavonoids, a group of antioxidants that are present in cocoa are beneficial for our health.

The difference between dark chocolate and milk chocolate

For many chocolate lovers it is amazing to hear that chocolate is actually healthy. Obviously the truth is more complicated than that.

The process of making chocolate starts with roasting cocoa beans, then ground them into a paste called cocoa liquor. After that, the cocoa liquor is separated into cocoa butter and cocoa solids. Cocoa butter is the ingredient of chocolate that provides a characteristic melting texture to it. When cocoa solids are powdered, the product is known as cocoa powder. Cocoa powder and cocoa solids are the two main ingredients of chocolate. The “healthiness” of chocolate depends on its cocoa solids concentration. In addition, the quality of ingredients and the amount of added sugar are also important factors when the “healthiness” of chocolate is taken into consideration. Both dark chocolate and milk chocolate contain cocoa solids and cocoa butter. On the contrary white chocolate only contains cocoa butter. Usually the so called dark chocolate contains less sugar and more cocoa solids than the milky version. The cocoa concentration of dark chocolate is somewhere between 35% and 100% depending on the amount of added milk products. Milk chocolate, on the other hand, is much sweater because of more added sugar, milk solids and cream compared to dark chocolate.

Flavonoids in cocoa

Flavonoids, the crucial compounds of herbs have well-known healing power. Not only herbs, but other plants such as cocoa, apples, onions, cranberries, tea and red wine contains flavonoid. Flavonoids-rich diets have been associated with reduced risk of several diseases. However, further research is needed to determine whether flavonoids alone are responsible for these benefits rather than the whole foods that contain flavonoids. Cocoa solid is the ingredient that makes chocolate healthy because of its flavonoids components. Cocoa butter and the other ingredients such as sugar, milk and cream do not contain the crucial flavonoids. As we see, the higher concentration of cocoa solids in dark chocolate makes it healthier than milk chocolate.

Proven health benefits of dark chocolate

1. It reduces cholesterol level. A study, published in 2008, suggests that regular dark chocolate consumption might reduce LDL cholesterol levels, which is known as "bad cholesterol."

2. It improves cognitive function. Another research published in 2013 suggests that drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day is particularly good for our brain and reduce memory loss of elderly people. Hot chocolate helped improve blood flow to parts of the brain where it was needed.

3. It lowers blood pressure. Researchers in 2015 found out that the participants who ate 25g of dark chocolate daily for 8 weeks had significantly lower blood pressure than those who ate the same quantity of white chocolate.

4. It is good for the heart and circulation. A study concluded that dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels. Thus it is preventing the arteries to get clogged.

5. It is good for mothers and their babies. study by Finnish researchers found that chocolate reduced stress in pregnant women. The babies born to women who had been eating chocolate daily during pregnancy smiled more often than the offspring of non-chocolate-eating parents.

6. It helps losing weight. Chocolate also can help losing weight by trigger you to eat less. A small square of chocolate melted on the tongue 20 minutes before a meal triggers the brain to feel full.