Trick or treat! With Halloween is just passing the corner. You might be thinking of sneaking some of those leftover treats for yourself. Well, before you go scouring through their bag of goodies, let me fill you in on the good news and the not-so-good news regarding chocolate.
First, The good news: There are growing number of studies showing that chocolate and its main ingredient, cocoa, reduces risk factors for heart disease ( stroke and heart attack). This is because chocolate contains flavanols which have anti-oxidant effects that decrease cell damage linked to heart disease. Flavanols have also been shown to lower blood pressure and improve heart function.
The not-so-good news. There are many types of chocolates available and the labels can be confusing. Chocolate is the product or a long refining process that begins with the fruit (cacao beans) of the tropical tree, Theobroma cacao. The beans are fermented, dried, roasted and ground to form cocoa butter, chocolate liquor or ground roasted cocoa beans.
What determines the type of chocolate?
This is determined by the amount of cocoa butter and chocolate liquor the chocolate contains, as well as the amount of sugar and other ingredients added to the mixture. In order to reap the benefits of flavanols in chocolate, it is very important to look for dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 65% or higher. These are the ones that contain the most anti-oxidant ability. Milk chocolate and white chocolate are usually filled with fat, sugar, and calories without the levels of flavanols in dark chocolate.
What You Need to Know:
Limit yourself to about 3 ounces ( 85 grams) a day. This is the amount studied in the clinical trials and has shown benefits. Again, make sure that it is dark chocolate containing at least 65% cocoa.
5 Other benefits of dark chocolate(1)
1) Dark Chocolate is Good for Your Brain
Dark chocolate increases blood flow to the brain as well as to the heart, so it can help improve cognitive function. Dark chocolate also helps reduce your risk of stroke.
Dark chocolate also contains several chemical compounds that have a positive effect on your mood and cognitive health. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), the same chemical your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. PEA encourages your brain to release endorphins, so eating dark chocolate will make you feel happier.
Dark chocolate also contains caffeine, a mild stimulant. However, dark chocolate contains much less caffeine than coffee. A 1.5-ounce bar of dark chocolate contains 27 mg of caffeine, compared to the 200 mg found in an eight-ounce cup of coffee.
2) Dark Chocolate Helps Control Blood Sugar
Dark chocolate helps keep your blood vessels healthy and your circulation unimpaired to protect against type 2 diabetes. The flavonoids in dark chocolate also help reduce insulin resistance by helping your cells to function normally and regain the ability to use your body’s insulin efficiently. Dark chocolate also has a low glycemic index, meaning it won’t cause huge spikes in blood sugar levels.
3) Dark Chocolate is Full of Antioxidants
Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants. Antioxidants help free your body of free radicals, which cause oxidative damage to cells. Free radicals are implicated in the aging process and may be a cause of cancer, so eating antioxidant-rich foods like dark chocolate can protect you from many types of cancer and slow the signs of aging.
4) Dark Chocolate Contains Theobromine
Dark chocolate contains theobromine, which has been shown to harden tooth enamel. That means that dark chocolate, unlike most other sweets, lowers your risk of getting cavities if you practice proper dental hygiene.
Theobromine is also a mild stimulant, though not as strong as caffeine. It can, however, help to suppress coughs.
5) Dark Chocolate is High in Vitamins and Minerals
Dark chocolate contains a number of vitamins and minerals that can support your health. Dark chocolate contains some of the following vitamins and minerals in high concentrations:
The copper and potassium in dark chocolate help prevent against stroke and cardiovascular ailments. The iron in chocolate protects against iron deficiency anemia, and the magnesium in chocolate helps prevent type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.