Chocolate is comfort food. When stressed out, frustrated it makes you feel better, and when things are great, it can make them even better. However, there is a difference between the chocolate bar candies on the store shelves and healthy chocolate. Unhealthy chocolate is full of sugar and fat that can cause health problems like acne, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Healthy dark chocolate can be eaten regularly in moderation to gain a variety of health benefits what to know as far as what type of chocolate should be eaten and how much.
Healthy Dark Chocolate
All the chocolate snacks, bars, minis, etc., contain added sugar, honey, and butter. These are not healthy for the body. Healthy dark chocolate contains at least 70% cocoa.
Dark Chocolate Nutrition
A 3.5 ounce – 100 grams dark chocolate bar contains:
- 11 grams of fiber
- 98% of recommended daily intake of manganese
- 89% of recommended daily intake of copper
- 67% of recommended daily intake of iron
- 58% of recommended daily intake of magnesium
- However, one bar contains 600 calories, which is why it needs to be consumed in moderation.
Cardiovascular System Benefits
Studies have shown that dark chocolate can restore elasticity and flexibility to the blood vessels and arteries. It was found to help prevent white blood cells from sticking to the blood vessel walls, a common cause of clogged arteries.
Lowers Cholesterol & Reduces Risk of Heart Disease
Dark chocolate has compounds that prevent the oxidation of LDL or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Less cholesterol means a lower risk of heart disease. Researchers found that dark chocolate reduced the risk of heart disease by 50% throughout a 15-year study.
Healthy for Expecting Mothers and Baby
Women that are pregnant and craving sweets can have dark chocolate. Eating dark chocolate can help improve blood flow to the arteries in the uterus. The improved blood flow helps the placenta develop and function normally, leading to a healthy pregnancy and delivery. It is recommended that pregnant women should only consume healthy dark chocolate during the first two trimesters and not in the third trimester. Speak to an obstetrician before making any diet changes.
Can Help Prevent Diabetes
When consumed in moderation, healthy dark chocolate can delay and even prevent the development of diabetes. This is achieved by improving insulin sensitivity. A study found that dark chocolate helped delay diabetes and also helped to lower blood pressure.
Beneficial for the Brain
Dark chocolate has been found to improve blood flow to the brain. This increases overall function. Subjects in a study found that after five days of consuming a small amount of dark chocolate daily, they had significantly increased the amount of blood in the brain. It was also found to help improve cognitive function in elder individuals. Another study found that 90 elderly patients had enhanced verbal skills and improved overall health.
To be healthy, it needs to be consumed in moderation. This means about 1 ounce a day. A regular-sized healthy chocolate bar contains approximately 3.5 ounces. Therefore the bar should be split into thirds with one piece a day. Read the label carefully and ensure that that dark chocolate has a 70% or higher cocoa content. There can be several types of cocoa are on the label, including:
- Cocoa nibs
- Cocoa butter
- Cocoa powder
- All are perfectly healthy additions to a healthy dark chocolate bar.
It is recommended to avoid dark chocolate known as Dutched, or that has been processed with alkali. Treating dark chocolate with alkali reduces the bitter taste but also reduces the healthy antioxidants. Dark chocolate does have some sugar but is far less than the average milk chocolate bar. It is recommended to look for dark chocolate with sugar listed as the last or next to final ingredient on the list. Often the higher the percentage of cocoa, the less sugar.
ASAPscience simplified the science of hunger and cravings in the above two-minute video. It explains the body’s hunger-regulation system and the why of second helpings how the appetite works. Appetite is different from hunger. Hunger is the need to eat, while appetite is the desire to snack mindlessly even after a meal. Hunger and appetite are influenced by a network of pathways involving the neuroendocrine system. Appetite regulation, fullness/satisfaction, and energy balance include:
- The gut – the largest endocrine organ in the body
- Various hormones
- The brain
High-calorie foods rich in fat and sugar are highly desirable to the body. This comes from the hunter-gatherer ancestors who sought these foods for survival because they were scarce or difficult to come by. The instinct for fatty and sugary foods is still active even though these foods are available all over. The continual intake of high-calorie fat and sugary foods overrides the body’s natural hunger regulation system, leading to chronic overeating. The more an individual eats foods with high levels of fat and sugar, the more likely the body gets addicted to them.
Buijsse, Brian et al. “Cocoa intake, blood pressure, and cardiovascular mortality: the Zutphen Elderly Study.” Archives of internal medicine vol. 166,4 (2006): 411-7. doi:10.1001/archinte.166.4.411
Desideri, Giovambattista, et al. “Benefits in cognitive function, blood pressure, and insulin resistance through cocoa flavanol consumption in elderly subjects with mild cognitive impairment: the Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) study.” Hypertension (Dallas, Tex. : 1979) vol. 60,3 (2012): 794-801. doi:10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.112.193060
Francis, S T et al. “The effect of flavanol-rich cocoa on the fMRI response to a cognitive task in healthy young people.” Journal of cardiovascular pharmacology vol. 47 Suppl 2 (2006): S215-20. doi:10.1097/00005344-200606001-00018
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