For many of us, when we think of the benefits derived from eating chocolate, it has to do with how much we love biting into a sweet, succulent candy bar or huge piece of chocolate cake. However, there are other chocolate benefits that you might not be aware of. For instance, did you know that eating dark chocolate can provide a number of valuable health benefits?
Perhaps the most important of all the chocolate health benefits is that it can reduce the risk of heart disease. Specifically, dark chocolate protects against the oxidation of LDL, the so-called bad cholesterol that collects in the walls of blood vessels and can ultimately cause blockages. Several observational studies have concluded that the cocoa used to make dark chocolate reduces the buildup of plaque in arteries. Dark chocolate also helps to reduce elevated blood pressure, another leading heart disease risk factor.
You may not equate chocolate with nutrition. In fact, dark chocolate contains many vital nutrients that we need to maintain good health. A 100-gram dark chocolate bar with a high dark cocoa content includes more than half of the recommended daily allowance of iron, magnesium, copper and manganese. It also contains ample amounts of potassium, zinc, selenium and phosphorous.
Antioxidants are substances that remove potentially damaging oxidizing agents from the body, including many of those believed to contribute to the development of cancer and other medical conditions. While antioxidants are normally associated with the vitamins found in fresh fruits and vegetables, dark chocolate contains a variety of organic compounds that act as antioxidants. Dark cocoa beans are among the highest-ranking substances on the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity scale, one device used to measure the antioxidant benefits in foods.
Body Mass Index (BMI) is a calculation using your height and current weight to determine whether you are at your normal weight, overweight or obese. A study published in the American Journal of Medicine indicated that frequently consuming small amounts of dark chocolate contributed to a reduction in BMI in men and women between the ages of 20 and 85.
Another little-known of the many chocolate health benefits is that it can actually stimulate short-term brain function. A University of Nottingham study determined that the flavonols found in dark chocolate dilate blood vessels, enabling more oxygen-rich blood to reach certain parts of the brain. This results in increased alertness and reduced fatigue for a period of two to three hours.
The flavonols in dark chocolate may also improve your vision. Research published in Physiology & Behavior indicated that individuals consuming dark chocolate containing 720 milligrams of cocoa flavonols experienced improved performance in terms of detecting motion and reading low-contrast letters.
Now you have even more good reasons to enjoy your favorite dark chocolate treat!