There are several types of chocolate, but the one receiving most of the attention for reported health benefits is dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is made by adding sugar and has minimal amounts of milk. Milk chocolate is made with milk and sugar and therefore contains more fat and calories than dark chocolate. The lower milk content is one of the reasons why dark chocolate is considered healthier than milk chocolate. The general rule is that the darker the chocolate the better the health benefits.
It is recommended that dark chocolate be composed of at least 70% cocoa in order to get the most nutrients. Dark chocolate is rich in numerous minerals and is a great source for magnesium. Cocoa beans contain sulfur, calcium, riboflavonoids, Vitamin C, and are high in iron. They also contain heart healthy fats, such as oleic acid, stearic acid, palmitic acid, and are a good source of flavonoids.
Dark chocolate may also help decrease LDL or bad cholesterol. It is important to realize that chocolate does contain high fat, especially if you are eating milk chocolate with added sugar. The health benefits are not an excuse to consume unlimited amounts of chocolate; however, in moderation, dark chocolate may provide a number of advantages. Dark chocolate has been shown effective at lowering blood pressure, lowering the risk of stroke, improving blood flow and circulation, reducing the risk of blood clots.
Many find it hard to believe that chocolate can be good for the body. After years of associating chocolate with junk food, it is no surprise that countless ask if chocolate is healthy? Scientific research has shown that chocolate provides many benefits. For instance, dark chocolate a rich source of flavonoids. Flavonoids are naturally occurring micronutrients that are present in numerous food sources including fruits and vegetables. They are also found in teas such as green and white, and are the ingredient in wine that provides health benefits. Flavonoids are an important component in the fight against free radicals. They are rich in antioxidants, which helps remove particles in the body that may be subject to oxidization. Additionally, studies have shown that dark chocolate and cocoa have been associated with a reduced chance of cardiovascular disease.
According to another study, chocolate may help reduce stroke risk. The study showed that women who consumed two chocolate bars per week, had a 20% decreased risk of stroke. The reduction was attributed directly to the flavonoids that are also credited with helping reduce the risk of heart disease. Other benefits of chocolate include an increased mood and that chocolate releases endorphins in the brain.
Though there are signs of benefits, a question remains as to whether those struggling with obesity will be helped by eating chocolate. Most studies that have shown cocoa’s benefits did not involve milk chocolate, but rather dark, and unsweetened chocolate. Those dealing with weight issues might find that using unsweetened chocolate then adding a low caloric sweetener such as stevia, can retain the benefits without adding unwanted fat and calories to their diet. An approximate square of chocolate that is comprised of at least 60% dark chocolate should render approximately 30 calories per day. Cocoa powder, in its unsweetened form, is extremely low in calories. By having one square of dark chocolate per day, or making a low calorie chocolate drink, you can ensure you gain the many health benefits without adding an additional source of excess calories to your diet. Science has shown with documented research that eating chocolate in moderation, and by choosing low sugar versions, such as dark chocolate, you can eat chocolate and enjoy its health benefits without fear of gaining weight.
Two main concerns regarding eating chocolate are whether it is addictive and how much you can eat. Science has shown that a true addiction, such as a chemical dependency upon chocolate does not exist; however, there are many that will crave chocolate. As chocolate can release endorphins in the brain, it is possible that some can develop a sense of dependency upon chocolate, for its feel good effects. However, a chemical dependency, such as is present with the use of nicotine, marijuana or heroin is not an issue. One of the main advantages of chocolate is that you can safely increase mood and boost alertness without altering brain chemistry. By eating chocolate in moderation you can rest assured that you derive the benefits without becoming addicted or becoming obese.