Dark Chocolate Really Is Good for You!

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Chocolate Strawberry

Dark chocolate contains healthy fats.

Cocoa butter, which is extracted from the cacao bean and incorporated into most reputable dark chocolate bars, is mostly monounsaturated and saturated fat, with very little polyunsaturated fat. And because most of that saturated fat is stearic acid, widely known for having neutral effects on LDL cholesterol.

Dark chocolate contains lots of polyphenols, particularly flavanols.

When it comes to polyphenol content and antioxidant capacity, cacao outweighs antioxidant rich acai, pomegranate, cranberry and blueberry. The most studied polyphenol in cacao is epicatechin, a flavanol.

Dark chocolate and blood pressure.

Epidemiological studies show that dark chocolate consumption may help to lower blood pressure. Cocoa consumption also associated with a possible improvement to arterial flow in smokers. Dark chocolate rich in flavanols may improve endothelial function and induce vasodilation.

Chocolate Heart

Dark chocolate and cardiovascular disease.

Having cocoa powder mixed with hot water or milk has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol (the bad one) and raise HDL cholesterol levels (the good one).

Dark chocolate and insulin resistance.

A study of hypertensive, glucose-intolerant patients received either 100 grams daily of high-polyphenol dark chocolate or 100 grams daily of zero-polyphenol white chocolate, for fifteen days. The group fed the dark chocolate had improved beta cell function (insulin secreting cells in the pancreas), increased insulin sensitivity, lowered blood pressure and improved endothelial function, while white chocolate did none of those things.

Dark chocolate and fatty liver.

It is thought that cocoa may have therapeutic value in individuals with early stages of fatty liver disease that hasn’t become severe.

Dark chocolate and UV damage.

One study found that feeding high levels of dark chocolate to healthy people over twelve weeks doubled their resistance to UV damage.

Similarly, another study found that a group fed cacao with a high flavanol content had greater resistance to a given UV dosage than a group who were fed cacao with a low flavanol content (who actually saw no benefit at all) over a six and twelve-week period.

WHICH CHOCOLATE IS BEST?

Seeing as how most of chocolate’s benefits stem from the polyphenol content, and most of the studies that saw large effects used “high-flavanol” dark chocolate, you should be looking for chocolate with high polyphenol counts. Dutch processed, or alkalised, chocolate lightens the colour, removes some of the bitter compounds, and gives it a milder taste. Those “bitter compounds,” you see, are the flavanols. Without the bitterness you’re missing most of the beneficial polyphenols.

One of my favourites is “Loving Earth” chocolate, with 62% organic and raw cacao. They use agave syrup instead of sugar, so that makes it even better for you. It’s not as high as some of the brands you find in the supermarket, but it’s raw and organic, so there will be more antioxidants as a result. You can buy it at Organic Feast or other good Organic Shops.

They also make a high quality raw cacao powder (raw – Hot Chocolatewhich is actually fermented – or roasted, but never Dutch processed), try making coconut cacao milk. Mix half a can or carton of coconut milk with a couple tablespoons of cacao powder. Heat on the stove until almost simmering. Add sweetener (raw honey, maple syrup or stevia) to taste and, if you’re adventurous, a bit of cayenne, cinnamon and turmeric! Yummo!

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