Dark chocolate has long been a favorite among chocolate lovers, and for good reason. Not only is it rich and delicious, but it also offers a variety of health benefits that make it a guilt-free indulgence. From boosting heart health to improving brain function, dark chocolate is more than just a tasty treat.
Dark chocolate is made from cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar. The cocoa solids are what give dark chocolate its distinct flavor and color. Generally, dark chocolate contains a higher percentage of cocoa solids than milk chocolate, which gives it a more intense, bitter taste.
Dark chocolate is available in a range of percentages, typically from 50% to 100% cocoa solids. The higher the percentage, the more bitter the chocolate will be. However, the bitterness can be balanced by adding sugar or other sweeteners, such as honey or maple syrup.
Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
- It is packed with antioxidants, which can help protect the body against damage from free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause cellular damage and contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
- It contains compounds called polyphenols, which have been linked to improved brain function. Polyphenols can help increase blood flow to the brain, which can improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline.
- It contains flavonoids, which are a type of antioxidant that can help protect against damage to cells in the body. These antioxidants can help to reduce inflammation, which is a common contributor to a range of health issues including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Studies have shown that the flavonoids in dark chocolate can help to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, and reduce the risk of heart disease. It can can help to lower LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol levels, which can also help to protect against heart disease.
- It contains a compound called phenylethylamine, which can help to increase the production of endorphins in the brain thereby boosting mood and reducing stress. Endorphins are the “feel good” chemicals in the brain that help to reduce stress and improve mood. This may be why many people turn to chocolate when they’re feeling down or stressed.
How Much Dark Chocolate Should You Be Eating?
While dark chocolate can offer many health benefits, it’s important to remember that it is still a high-calorie food. In order to reap the benefits of dark chocolate without consuming too many calories, it’s recommended that you eat no more than 1-2 ounces (or 30-60 grams) of dark chocolate per day.
When choosing dark chocolate, look for a high percentage of cocoa solids, at least 70% or higher. This will ensure that you are getting the maximum amount of flavonoids and other beneficial compounds. The higher the percentage, the more health benefits you’ll receive. Avoid chocolates with added oils, such as palm oil or vegetable oil, as they can detract from the health benefits of the chocolate.
Dark chocolate is more than just a delicious treat. It’s packed with antioxidants, flavonoids, polyphenols, and other compounds that offer a range of health benefits so you can enjoy all the benefits of this superfood while satisfying your sweet tooth. Go ahead, indulge in a piece of dark chocolate today!
About The Author
Dr. Coco is a highly-educated and well-qualified primary care physician who graduated from the University of the Philippines Baguio with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and her Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center. She completed her three-year residency training in Family Medicine at Brokenshire Medical Center. She passed her diplomate exams in Family Medicine, given by the Philippine Academy of Family Physicians in 2018.
Dr. Coco is dedicated to providing comprehensive and holistic care for her patients. She is a primary care physician who believes in delivering continuing comprehensive health care for all. To her, patients are not just a number as she takes time to analyse how she can improve their overall health every chance they can get.