Dark Chocolate – A Healthy “Treat”?

Before you grab that fistful of left-over chocolates from that Halloween bowl later this week – there a few GOOD things you might like to know about chocolate. I’m referring to DARK chocolate, not milk chocolate, which is what most of our favorite candy bars are made with and probably what you purchased for the neighborhood trick-or-treaters! If you can buy dark chocolate, you’ll be in for a “treat” for your heart, your brain and your mood!

 

First, let’s start with the main ingredient in chocolate, cocoa. Many studies have shown that cocoa reduces the risk for heart disease (stroke and heart attack). The flavanols contained in chocolate have anti-oxidant effects that decrease inflammation, the key factor in development of heart disease. Flavanols have also been shown to lower blood pressure and improve heart function.

 

Secondly, the labeling on chocolates can be very confusing. Chocolate is the product of a long refining process that begins with the fruit (cacao beans) of the tropical tree, Theobroma cacao. These beans are fermented, dried, roasted and then ground to form cocoa butter, chocolate liquor or ground roasted cocoa beans.



Thirdly, and here’s the real kicker- only dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 65% or higher provides you with the benefits of the anti-oxidant power of flavanols. Milk and white chocolate do not contain these healthy levels of flavanols and are usually filled with fat, sugar and lots of calories.

Lastly, the amount that you eat needs to be in moderation. Your dark chocolate serving (with greater than 65% cocoa) should be limited to 3 ounces (85 grams)/day. No, you shouldn't eat the entire bar of dark chocolate in one sitting – just a few squares of it!

 

 

5 Ways Dark Chocolate is good for you! 

  • Good for your brain and your mood. Studies have shown that dark chocolate increases blood flow to the brain – improving cognitive function.  The phenylethylamine (PEA) increases the brain’s release of endorphins making you feel happier.
  • Helps control blood sugar. The flavonoids in dark chocolate help reduce insulin resistance by helping your cells function normally and use insulin efficiently.  Dark chocolate also has a low glycemic index which means it won’t cause huge spikes in blood sugar levels.
  • Chock full of antioxidants. Dark chocolate contains high levels of anti-oxidants which help remove free radicals from your body.  Free radicals have been shown to cause oxidative stress leading to many types of cancer and accelerate the aging process.
  • Strengthens tooth enamel. Dark chocolate contains theobromine which has been shown to harden tooth enamel lowering the risk of developing cavities.
  • Contains vitamins and minerals. Dark chocolate has large number of vitamins and minerals to support optimal health.  These include copper and potassium to help prevent strokes, and iron and magnesium to prevent anemia and type 2 diabetes. 
 

So go ahead and indulge in a bit of decadence – just make sure it’s dark chocolate in your hand!

 

In health and happiness,

Dr. Diana

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