Got dark chocolate to be more specific? Dark chocolate has amazing health benefits and has been the subject of many studies in recent times. Note that it is dark chocolate specifically, and not its milky counterpart that boasts all of the amazing benefits I’m about to recount. Milk chocolate is filled with additives and sugar and only contains a little bit of cocoa so its benefits are outweighed by the drawbacks of those added ingredients. Organic, dark chocolate, ideally higher than 70% cocoa content is so beneficial that some dare say it can be considered medicinal and is considered a super food.
This Saturday is national chocolate day in my book (or Valentine’s day, whatever you want to call it) so I thought this week would be the perfect time to go on and on about one of my all time favorites subjects and a very important staple in my life. Turns out that there is an actual national chocolate day on October 28th too so we get to celebrate it at least twice a year. Yay!
Chocolate is made from cocao beans, or more specifically the seed of the Theobroma caco plant which grows in tropical climates. The seeds are fermented, dried, roasted and shelled to form cacao nibs which are pure chocolate. They can then be further processed into liquid (chocolate liquor) or solids (cacao butter), which are used to create all of the delicious ways in which we are able to consume chocolate.
Chocolate contains an incredible amount of medicinal compounds and has been found to be one of the richest sources of antioxidants on the planet. Chocolate is also high in flavonoids which help protect us from environmental toxins, theobromine, which is used in modern medicine to stimulate the heart and widen the blood vessels and phenethylamine which stimulates release of norepinephrine and dopamine, two neurotransmitters that are responsible for concentration and mental alertness. They also happen to be responsible for the feelings of euphoria associated with falling in love and phenethylamine is the compound in chocolate that gives it the reputation of being an aphrodisiac. Chocolate is also very high in tryptophan which is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is associated with feelings of happiness and well-being.
Chocolate contains a moderate amount of caffeine, which is a psychological stimulant and adds to chocolates ability to increase concentration and mental alertness.. Additionally, it contains high levels of Iron, Magnesium, Copper, Manganese, Potassium, phosphorous, zinc and selenium.
Scientific studies have shown the following benefits of consuming dark chocolate:
- Improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure
- Raises good cholesterol
- May lower the risk of heart disease and heart attacks
- May protect against skin cancer
- Improves brain function by improving blood flow to the brain
- May reduce memory and cognitive decline
- May help prevent stroke
- May help protect against type 2 diabetes
- Reduces stress
- Enhances the activity of serotonin, a neurotransmitter which helps regulate mood and sleep
Dark chocolate has also shown to reduce cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods which can benefit weight loss. Milk chocolate, with its high sugar content, does the opposite so make sure to stick to dark, ideally higher than 70% and organic.
A significant amount of 73% organic dark chocolate from Trader Joes was consumed during the research and writing of this article.
What is your favorite benefit of chocolate? Comment below and let me know.
© Copyright 2015 Vanessa Naja/Holistic Moving