7 proven health benefits of dark chocolate

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

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

1. Highly nutritious

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

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

Of course, 100 grams is a fairly large amount and shouldn’t be consumed every day. These nutrients also come with 600 calories and moderate amounts of sugar. This is why dark chocolate should be consumed in moderation. The fatty acid profile of cocoa and dark chocolate is also good. Fats are made up primarily of oleic acid (a heart-healthy fat that is 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 makes up only a third of total fat calories. 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 rich in biologically active organic compounds that function as antioxidants. These include, among others, polyphenols, flavanols and catechins. One study showed that cocoa and dark chocolate had more antioxidant, polyphenol and flavanol activity than all other fruits tested, including blueberries and acai berries.

3. It 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 the functions of NO is to send signals to 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.

Consuming dark chocolate can improve several important risk factors for heart disease. In a controlled study, cocoa powder was found to significantly reduce oxidized LDL (bad cholesterol) in men. It also increased HDL and decreased 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 arteries in the heart. It makes perfect sense that cocoa reduces oxidized LDL levels. It contains an abundance of powerful antioxidants that pass into the blood and protect lipoproteins from oxidative damage. The flavanols in dark chocolate can also reduce insulin resistance, which is another common risk factor for diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

5. It can reduce the risk of heart disease

Compounds in dark chocolate appear to have a highly protective effect against LDL oxidation. In the long run, this should allow much less cholesterol to settle in the arteries, hence a lower risk of heart disease. In fact, several long-term observational studies show rather drastic improvements. In a study of 470 elderly 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 having calcified plaque in the arteries by 32%. Eating chocolate less frequently had no effect. Yet 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 the 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 minimum dose of erythema (MED) is the minimum amount of UVB light needed to cause skin redness 24 hours after exposure. In a study of 30 people, the MED more than doubled after consuming flavanol-rich dark chocolate for 12 weeks. If you are planning a beach vacation, consider consuming a little more dark chocolate in the weeks and months ahead. But consult your doctor or dermatologist before giving up your usual skincare routine to consume more dark chocolate.

7. It can improve brain function

The good news doesn’t stop there. Dark chocolate may also improve brain function. A study in healthy volunteers showed that consuming high flavanol 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 like caffeine and theobromine, which could be a major reason it can improve brain function in the short term (26Trusted).

* Presse Santé is committed to transmitting health knowledge in a language accessible to all. IN NO EVENT, the information provided cannot replace the advice of a healthcare professional.

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