Why Dark Chocolate Is Healthy Chocolate?Why Dark Chocolate Is Healthy Chocolate

Chocolate is one of the nation’s favourite indulgences; for many it’s an addiction!

Such chocoholics can take heart- evidence is mounting that regular intake of a moderate amount of dark chocolate is actually very beneficial to health.

The Evidence
Two published research papers highlight the benefits of dark chocolate consumption.

45 subjects participated in a study designed to examine the effects of dark chocolate consumption on the functioning of the arteries and on blood pressure. In phase 1, subjects were randomly assigned to consume a solid dark chocolate bar (containing 22 g cocoa powder) or a cocoa-free bar (containing 0 g cocoa powder). In phase 2, subjects were randomly assigned to consume sugar-free cocoa (containing 22 g cocoa powder), sugared cocoa (containing 22 g cocoa powder), or a cocoa free drink. Improvements occurred in the function of the arteries of all patients consuming cocoa; the most significant improvements occurred on consumption of the sugar free liquid cocoa. Significant reductions in blood pressure also occurred among those consuming the dark chocolate and sugar free liquid cocoa.

Click here to view the abstract of the study. This research builds on work that has demonstrated regular dark chocolate consumption can improve artery function and reduce blood pressure in healthy young people, in people with hypertension and in people with elevated cholesterol.

In another study 34 elderly volunteers were divided into three groups: 13 consumed flavanol rich cocoa for two weeks, the other 21 were randomly divided to receive either flavanol rich cocoa or flavanol poor cocoa for one week. A remarkable 10% increase in blood flow was seen among those consuming the chocolate for two weeks; among those consuming the flavanol rich chocolate for one week an increase in blood flow of at least 10% was seen in over half of the group. These results, while they did not rich statistical significance, are a strong indicator of the potential role of flavonoids in helping to prevent conditions such as stroke and cognitive impairment.

So What’s In Dark Chocolate?
Cocoa beans are a rich source of flavonoids, chemicals in plants that act in the body as anti-oxidants (substances that neutralise damaging, reactive substances known as free radicals). The particular flavonoids of interest in cocoa are called catechins and epicatechins. Dark chocolate with a high cocoa content is densely packed with these powerful substances; indeed it has a higher Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity (ORAC, a measure of a foods antioxidant power) than foods such as green tea, blueberries and prunes.

The flavonoids in dark chocolate are hypothesised to increase production of the signalling gas nitric oxide; the endothelium (inner lining) of blood vessels use nitric oxide to signal the surrounding smooth muscle to relax (vasodilation), reducing blood pressure and increasing blood flow. This increase in nitric oxide production has also been found to have a favourable effect on the response of cells to the hormone insulin, meaning that consumption of cocoa may benefit those with adult onset diabetes.

Dark chocolate also contains high levels of the essential minerals magnesium, iron,potassium and chromium.

A Note
The benefits of cocoa seem to be ameliorated by milk, it would appear that milk proteins have the capacity to bind to flavonoids. A study of 12 healthy volunteers found a significant increase in blood anti-oxidant levels one hour after consuming dark chocolate, the same effect was not seen when the volunteers consumed milk chocolate, or dark chocolate with a glass of milk.What about the fat and caffeine in chocolate?

Dark chocolate does indeed contain a modest amount of caffeine, approximately 20mg in a 30g bar; however, compared to coffee the amounts are very low (an average cup contains about 115mg) and are not detrimental to health.

The major fatty acid in cocoa butter is a saturated fat called stearic acid, which is known to have no effect on serum cholesterol.

How To Get The Benefits Of This Tasty Super Food
There are a few basic rules to obtain the benefits from chocolate consumption. They are:

  • Choose dark, not milk or white chocolate.
  • Choose chocolate with a minimum of 50% cocoa solids and preferably 70% or more.
  • Choose good quality chocolate without high amounts of refined sugar and without added fats.
  • Eat following a balanced meal; sugar consumption between meals is associated with cavities and poor blood sugar balance.
  • Watch the amount you eat. All chocolate is a high calorie, high fat food.

Above all enjoy!

Oh and if you fancy some chocolate click out our range of raw and very dark chocolates @ www.simplyhealthfood.co.uk/yum-yum-chocolate