Health benefits of dark chocolate

Who doesn’t love to nibble chocolate?  All kinds of chocolate – dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate.  When we were children, chocolates were favorite giveaways to us of our relatives and family friends.

As children, we never cared to know about the health benefits of chocolate.  We just love to go on a ‘chocolate binge.’   But as we get older and we feel the aches and pains of aging, we get to be more health-conscious.  We spend more time educating ourselves with healthy foods and fitness habits.  We also become more selective with our foods; and start patronizing healthy foods that are high in vitamins and minerals.  Hoping that we stay strong and healthy for a long time.

Dark chocolate is one healthy food we should take – but in moderation.  Unfortunately, not many of us know that dark chocolate is healthy food.  In our younger years, we were warned by our older folks that chocolates cause tooth cavities and make us fat.

One may ask: What makes chocolate darker than other chocolates?  It’s the cocoa content.  The more cocoa content, the darker the chocolate.  This is the reason why dark chocolate bars (100 grams) have in their cover labels the cocoa content like 90% cocoa (Supreme dark) or 85% cocoa or 70% cocoa or other indications of lower cocoa content.

Let me share other interesting information about dark chocolate most of which are found in the internet:

Do you know that chocolate is derived from the seed of the cocoa tree by the Mayans as early as the 6th century.  Chocolate played a special role in religious and royal events in both the Mayan and Aztec culture;

Do you know that today, Western Africa produces almost two-thirds of the world’s cocoa with Côte d’Ivoire growing almost half of it.  Our country also exports some cocoa-based products;

There was a study conducted at the University of Cologne, Germany of forty-four (44) adults (24 women, 20 men), ages 56-73 who had mild high blood pressure (hypertension) or borderline blood pressure milder than hypertension, who were not taking blood pressure drugs or nutritional supplements.  It was found out after eighteen (18) weeks of taking thirty (30) calorie dose (one group took white chocolate while the other took chocolate with chocolate liquor or cocoa) that the group who took dark chocolate were benefited more.  The systolic and diastolic blood pressures were lowered by 3-5 counts on the average.  There was no improvement in the white chocolate group.  This study was reported in the August 27 issue of the American Medical Association.

Do you know that dark chocolate has a high level of epicatechin, a special healthy compound found in chocolates.  On the other hand, milk chocolates have the lowest epicatechin levels of all chocolates.  In another study in Italy’s National Institute for Food and Nutrition research in Rome, it was found out that dark chocolate (but not milk chocolate or not dark chocolate eaten with milk) is a powerful antioxidant.  It was also found out that milk may interfere with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate;

Do you know that eating antioxidant rich foods like dark chocolate slows down the signs of aging and protects us from many kinds of cancer;

Do you know that dark chocolates as well as other foods like many vegetables and fruits contain powerful antioxidant flavonoids (referred to at Vitamin P) that are good for the brain.  Says Dr. Small, Director of the University of California – Los Angeles Longevity Center:  “As the brain ages, it undergoes wear and tear in what’s called oxidative stress,” he notes. “And these antioxidants in our foods actually protect the brain from that kind of aging wear and tear.”

Do you know that cocoa-based foods like dark chocolate boosts our thinking and memory performance, as well as something called “neurovascular coupling” — where blood flow in the brain changes in response to brain activity — This plays a key role in Alzheimer’s and other mental-health conditions.”  This is a recent Harvard study published in a recent issue of the journal Neurology.  In short, Harvard researchers found out that chocolate (like drinking high-potency cocoa) protects us against Alzheimer’s disease;

Do you know that eating dark chocolate may also prevent arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).  Yes, dark chocolate is good for our heart;

Do you know that dark chocolate has a pleasant effect on our moods.  A study shows “that chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), the same chemical our brain creates when we feel like we’re falling in love.  PEA encourages our brain to release endorphins – so eating dark chocolate will make us happier;”

Do you know that a 1.5 ounce bar of dark chocolate contains only 27 mg. of caffeine, a mild stimulant – compared to the 200 mg. found in an eight ounce of coffee;

Do you know that dark chocolate helps control blood sugar.  It protects us against type 2 diabetes.  Also, the flavonoids in dark chocolate helps us regain the use of our body’s insulin.  Type 2 diabetes or adult-onset diabetes, primarily caused by obesity. Ninety (90%) percent of diabetes cases fall under Type 2 diabetes characterized by excessive thirst, frequent urination and constant hunger;

Do you know that dark chocolate contains theobromine which has been shown to harden tooth enamel thus lowering our risk of getting cavities assuming of course that we also practise dental hygiene;

Do you know that dark chocolate suppresses cough.  No wonder people suffering from acid reflux always bring with them dark chocolate to suppress acid reflux attacks.  Acid reflux causes symptoms like burning chest pain called heartburn.

Yes, let’s nibble dark chocolate – in moderation. The higher the cocoa level of dark chocolate, the more healthy it is.  Me, I take only dark chocolate with 70% cocoa content.  My taste buds cannot take the bitter taste of dark chocolate having more than 70% of cocoa content.  The day dark chocolate will use ingredients that are wholly organic like organic cocoa and organic sugar (like coconut sugar) will be a day of great celebration by organic health-conscious consumers.

Have a joyful day!