Dark Chocolate Health Benefits
Excellent Source of:
- Manganese – 20%
Good Source of:
- Copper – 14%
- Iron – 12%
- Magnesium – 10%
Also a Source of:
- Phosphorus – 6%
- Potassium – 4%
- Zinc – 4%
Also a Source of:
- Fiber – 8%
- Antioxidants – flavanols
- Omega 3/6 Fatty Acids
How Dark Chocolate Prevents Chronic Disease
It is important to note that dark chocolate, while understood as a great source of antioxidants and minerals, is still high in sugar and fats. All of the following benefits are predicated on a moderate consumption of dark chocolate; overeating can lead to overwhelmingly adverse health impacts. Furthermore, when discussing dark chocolate, its benefits become particularly apparent when it is compared to milk chocolate and white chocolate and other candy options. Substituting dark chocolate for these other varieties, in moderation, can help promote a healthy lifestyle. Optimal benefits begin when consuming at least 72% dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate is an excellent source of a class of antioxidants known as flavonoids. Flavonoids offer a wide variety of health benefits, impacting everything from the cardiovascular system to the endocrine system. However, at their core, flavonoids are still free radical neutralizing antioxidants.
- Free radicals are cancer-causing molecules formed from everyday stressors including UV radiation, diet, and inflammation.
- Flavonoids identify, bind, and neutralize free radicals, thereby reducing your risk of cancer genesis.
Cocoa contains more phenolic antioxidants than most other foods, offering a diverse array of defenses against cancers.
- Polyphenols may be involved in regulating apoptosis, a natural process that kills cancer cells. As a source of polyphenols, dark chocolate may reduce risk of cancer by promoting apoptosis and other natural processes that defend against cancer. (2)
Dark chocolate boasts a much higher mineral content than milk chocolate. With respect to copper, alone, dark chocolate supplies 14% versus milk chocolate’s negligible percentage of your recommended daily intake. (3) The minerals found in high levels in dark chocolate–copper, magnesium, and iron, for example–are essential for proper cardiovascular function.
- Deficiencies in these minerals can lead to anemia, arrhythmia, and hypertension. (4)
One long term study found that chocolate consumption was associated with a 39% reduced risk of stroke. (5)
- This decreased risk may be attributed to the fact that solid dark chocolate increases HDL cholesterol levels. (Milk and white chocolate actually decrease HDL cholesterol levels.) (6)
- HDL cholesterol is considered the “good” variety because it helps control the buildup of LDL cholesterol on the arterial walls. Built up plaques of LDL cholesterol can cause stroke and heart attack.
In addition to protecting against cancer, flavonoids can also promote cardiovascular health. They increase production of nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels and improves blood flow. This regulates blood pressure and even lowers blood pressure in people exhibiting hypertension. Flavonoids also lower inflammation, taking strain off of the blood vessels and heart. (7)
- By supporting the integrity of both blood vessels and blood cells, dark chocolate can help prevent serious cardiac disease and cardiac events like heart attack and stroke.
Two risk factors associated with diabete are insulin resistance, which is a prediabetic condition, and glucose metabolism. Catechin and epicatechin, the two main flavonoids in dark chocolate, have been observed modifying glucose metabolism in in vitro studies and increasing insulin secretion. In addition, one study on overweight and obese adults found that consumption of high flavanol cocoa, as in dark chocolate, for 12 weeks significantly improved insulin sensitivity. (8)
Other Health Benefits
By supporting cerebral blood flow and reducing inflammation, flavonoids impact brain health. It has been hypothesized that the nutrition profile of dark chocolate could make it a good dietary resource for avoiding certain neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzeheimer’s. (9)
Flavonoids may have photoprotective capacity, helping to protect your skin from harmful UV radiation. (10)
(Dark) chocolate lovers rejoice! A study showed that consumption of dark chocolate reduced symptoms of depression. (11)