The Delicious Health Benefits of Chocolate

Dark Chocolate Bars

Believe it or not, consuming chocolate has numerous health benefits. This is not just wishful thinking, it is fact. However, before running out to buy all those candy bars you’ve been resisting for so long, it’s important to know all the facts because not all chocolates are created equal. Only some chocolate contains the goodness that your body will reap the benefits from.

Where Does Chocolate Come From?

Cacao trees grow in equatorial regions around the globe and are full of natural plant nutrients. This tree produces a fruit about the size of a coconut and inside this fruit is the tree’s seed – the cacao bean. Once gathered, cacao beans are typically fermented for up to a week then thoroughly dried in the sun. They are then packaged and shipped to chocolate makers around the world.

Antioxidants that Pack a Punch

Dark chocolate contains numerous natural antioxidants. Raw, dark chocolate not only tastes rich, it is rich in cell-protecting antioxidants containing eight times the number of antioxidants found in strawberries. Hundreds of studies have shown that antioxidants are essential to protect the body from aging caused by free radicals. Antioxidants are natural compounds found in vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and especially in the cacao bean.

Polyphenols are a particular type of antioxidant found in dark chocolate, and are also abundant in berries and oranges. Cacao and dark chocolate is also high in a sub-class of compounds known as flavanols. Flavanols are found in red grapes and tea, and is one of the reasons why green tea has incredible health benefits.

Raw Organic Cacao and dark chocolate rank high in goodness because the antioxidants are incredibly concentrated. More than 10% of the weight of a raw cacao bean contains polyphenols. Keep in mind though, that this good news should not be a green light to start binging on dark chocolate.

What About the Fat Content in Chocolate?

Fats found in chocolate are one third oleic acid, one third stearic acid and one third palmitic acid. Oleic acid is a healthy monounsaturated fat that is also found in olive oil and coconut oil. Stearic acid is a saturated fat that has a neutral effect on cholesterol. Palmitic acid is the least healthy of this trio because it is a saturated fat which has been known to raise LDL (bad) cholesterol.

No matter which way you choose to look at it, chocolate is a high calorie food that contains a small amount of “bad” fat. Many studies state that no more than 100 grams of chocolate a day should be consumed and you’ll still get all the health benefits. Don’t get too carried away though because 100 grams of delicious dark chocolate contains about 400 calories.

If you want the full health benefits of chocolate, I recommend eating only organic raw cacao dark chocolate. As delicious as they may be, milk or white chocolate cannot make the health claims that dark chocolate can because anything added into that chocolate is fat, sugar and additional calories.

Heart Benefits of Eating Dark Chocolate

Eating Dark Chocolate

According to a study published on Science Daily, eating 6.7 grams of chocolate per day represents the exemplary amount for a protective effect for cardiovascular health [1]. Flavonoids contained in dark chocolate help to promote normal blood pressure by producing nitric oxide.

There is no shortage of studies that indicate consuming a small bar of organic raw dark chocolate every day can promote normal blood pressure. Also, this mouthwatering treat has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) by as much as 10%. Other than heart benefits, chocolate has been proven to stimulate endorphin production which creates feelings of pleasure.

Eat Your Depression Away

Here is some good news, however. The cacao bean contains many substances that work together to become nature’s anti-depressant. These magical beans contain three neurotransmitters that are associated with providing a person with a positive mental state. These neurotransmitters are: serotonin, dopamine and phenylethylamine.

The phenylethylamine (PEA) found in cacao beans affects brain chemistry in a unique manner. Stating that you love chocolate may not be too far off because PEA produces a brain chemistry that’s associated with falling in love.

Cacao beans also contain the amino acid tryptophan and monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors. MAO inhibitors allow the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine to circulate in the bloodstream longer and it is this effect that may help alleviate depression and promote feelings of wellbeing. Pharmaceuticals have used MAO inhibitors for a long time in their anti-depressant medications. Tryptophan plays a very important role in the production of serotonin within the body.

- Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM

References:

  1. Catholic University. Dark Chocolate: half a bar per week may keep heart attack risk at bay. ScienceDaily. 24 Sep. 2008.

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This entry was posted in Food

  • Sunglasses Al

    That settles it. I need to take a break so I can enjoy some dark chocolate. I have a bar with almonds in it, so that’s good protein and Omega-3, too. Thanks for the info.

  • brian

    Next time my wife tells me not to eat chocolate, I’m gonna respond with “But, there are many chocolate benefits… no, really, it’s for medicinal purposes.”

  • Jane Clemson

    I LOVE chocolate and its really interesting that it is used as an anti-depression supplement… Although I see a lot of ladies that obviously go overboard with this and eat way too much creamy milk chocolate rather than the dark healthier kind. Oh well… I’d think being fat would have been the cause of depression.

  • Chava Vital Chocolate

    Finally we are getting back to what was once known as the food of the gods. Back in history, for centuries, healers used chocolate to cure ailments such as tuberculosis, gout, fatigue, diarrhea, weak digestion, haemorrhoids, low virility, and shortness of breath. This was the pure untainted chocolate, not like what we see in brightly colored packages today that have absolutely no health benefits whatsoever. Pure organic dark chocolate is the best way to go, says me, a self confessed chocoholic and health fanatic, words which can again be used in the same sentence.

  • Steven

    Thank you, I can now eat my chocolate without feeling guilty. Though I think I will have to convert to dark chocolate instead of milk. Oh well, small sacrifices :) ))

  • Bytes Land

    Only pure dark chocolate, with a high percentage of cocoa, has consistently been found to contain health benefits. Though chocolate cake and chocolate pudding pie might taste great and put you in a good mood temporarily (at least while you’re eating it), it’s unlikely you’re reaping any real health benefit from your treat. Sorry.

  • Tom

    I have heard that chocolate is good for you, but I never understood it, or really believed it, so I just ignored it. Now I understand that only raw, organic, dark chocolate is good for you…and that in moderation. I will strive to eat only this kind of chocolate from now on…we’ll see. I presume that all the candy bars out there have added fat and sugar in them? Where can you get raw, organic, dark chocolate?

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