Chocolate has been around for over 3000 years and unsurprisingly, it’s still one of the most craved foods on the planet! We often associate chocolate with the words indulgence and guilty pleasure, but did you know that the unprocessed and raw version of chocolate known as cacao is one of the top sources of antioxidants around! Here are some of the surprising benefits of dark chocolate…
Rich in plant-based antioxidants
Dark chocolate contains anywhere between 50-100% cocoa solids and is typically milk-free. The cocoa solids in dark chocolate are rich in natural plant compounds that function as antioxidants. These include polyphenols, catechins, and flavonols. They play a protective role for plants and act as powerful antioxidants in the body. Various studies have found that flavanols can improve the function of our blood vessels and in turn can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. The flavanol content of milk chocolates is considerably lower than those found in dark chocolate! As a general rule, a higher percentage of cocoa means a higher amount of flavanols.
Natural Mood Booster
Dark chocolate contains potent compounds associated with the feel-good chemicals in the brain! Dark chocolate contains an amino acid called tryptophan which assists our body in producing serotonin (a well-known mood lifter). Dark chocolate also contains a compound called phenylethylamine, a chemical that stimulates the brain's pleasure centres to boost endorphins (one of the happy hormones) and anandamide levels (the bliss chemical which helps to create feelings of elation). Dark chocolate really is a deliciously easy way to help us relax and boost our mood!
Protects the health of your arteries
Research suggests that dark chocolate can help increase levels of the “good” type of cholesterol known as HDL (high-density lipoprotein) and lower the levels of the “bad” kind of cholesterol known as LDL (low-density lipoprotein)- the type of cholesterol that builds up on the walls of arteries and slows down blood flow. Dark chocolate has also been found to promote and restore flexibility in arteries which helps reduce the risk of artery-clogging.
Packed in magnesium
Magnesium is an essential mineral that the body uses for over 300 enzyme reactions and plays a key role in blood pressure regulation, metabolism, muscle function, and even helps calm the nervous system down to help you get a better night's sleep. When it comes to boosting magnesium levels, dark chocolate is a great pick! Dark chocolate which contains between 70-85% cacao provides approximately 228 mg of magnesium per 100g- that’s a whole lot of magnesium per 100g! Of course, 100 grams is a large amount of chocolate and should only be eaten in moderation- 1 to 2 squares are enough to help you reach your daily magnesium requirements as part of a balanced diet.
Improve Brain Health
The flavonoids found in dark chocolate have been found to carry blood-vessel relaxing properties which can help increase blood flow to the brain. As a result of this improved blood flow, more oxygen is carried to the brain and toxins can be removed from the brain more quickly. The improved brain blood flow can improve attention span, memory, reaction time and enables the brain to function at its best!