Chocolate is a food product that made from the seeds of the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao). The trees are native to South America’s tropical rain forest and mainly cultivated for its beans (also called seeds), from which cocoa butter, cocoa powder, and chocolate are made.
Chocolate is produced by crushing the cocoa beans and then ground it to produce cocoa liquor. This liquor is then further processed into chocolate by mixing fat and sugar.
Chocolate is available in several types, depending on the proportion of cocoa used, as well as the amount of sugar and any other ingredients added to the mixture. The three main types of chocolate are dark chocolate, white chocolate, and milk chocolate. Dark chocolate is believed to offer the greatest health benefits as it contains the highest levels of flavonoids, which act as antioxidants.
Antioxidants are substances that may protect the body against cell damage from molecules known as “free radicals”. Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage the body’s organs and cells and has even been blamed for aging. The antioxidants in dark chocolate help stabilize free radicals, which prevent cell damage and can even slow down the aging process. Here are 10 health benefits of dark chocolate:
1. Prevents heart disease
Like apples, dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which are compounds that act as antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body from aging caused by free radicals, which can cause damage that leads to heart disease.
2. Stabilizes blood sugar
The flavonoids in dark chocolate may reduce insulin resistance by regaining the body ability to use the insulin efficiently. Dark chocolate also has a low glycemic index, which means it does not spike your blood sugar levels.
3. Lowers blood pressure
Dark chocolate is rich in minerals such as copper and magnesium, these minerals aid in regulating normal blood pressure. Studies have shown that eating a small amount of dark chocolate for two or three times a week could significantly lower blood pressure.
4. Reduces cholesterol
Researches also suggest that polyphenol-rich dark chocolate may reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels by up to 10 percent.
5. Improves mood
Dark chocolate contains a variety of substances that can stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain which are known to improve mood and relieve stress.
6. Protects your skin
Researchers have found that the flavonoids in dark chocolate provide significant protection from the harmful effects of UV rays.
7. Prevents stroke
The high level of flavonoids, specifically epicatechin, in dark chocolate has been shown to protect the brain against strokes by shielding nerve cells. A 2011 Swedish study found that women who ate more than 45 grams of dark chocolate per week had a 20% lower risk of stroke than women who ate less than 9 grams of flavonoids-rich diet each week.
8. Cures anemia
The flavonoids compounds are also useful in treating people suffering from anemia and those with poor dietary habits.
9. Improves eyesight
Recent studies at the University of Reading have shown that the flavonols present in dark chocolate may help to improve blood flow to the brain, thereby giving vision a boost.
9. Improves cognitive function
Since dark chocolate increases blood flow to the brain, so it can help improve cognitive function as well.
While eating dark chocolate can lead to the health benefits described above, but remember that chocolate is high in fat and sugar content, so limit your chocolate intake to 7 ounces, or no more than 200 grams a week.