Chocolate comes in many forms: dark chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, unsweetened chocolate – even milk chocolate. But if you’re looking for the healthiest chocolate among the bunch, look no further than dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate is made up of around 50 to 90 percent cocoa solids and no milk solids. This gives dark chocolate the advantage of having the highest concentration of flavanols compared to other chocolate varieties. Consuming dark chocolate in moderation can lead to several health benefits.
- It contributes to positive mood. Eating dark chocolates enhances the body’s production of endorphins, chemicals that work to give the body relief from stress and pain. Dark chocolates also contain an amino acid called tryptophan. A precursor to serotonin, tryptophan contributes to happiness and positive mood. (Related: When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better: Dark chocolate reduces stress while improving memory.)
- It improves blood flow to the brain. Researchers from the University of Nottingham discovered that flavanols in dark chocolate improve blood flow in key areas of the brain. This results in improved performance and alertness. The researchers added that cocoa flavanols, found in high amounts in dark chocolate, contribute to improved brain function; help fight fatigue and sleep deprivation; and reverse signs of aging.
- It is rich in antioxidants. Compared to other superfoods, cocoa powder contains more antioxidants that help protect the body against free radicals. This, in turn, protects brain cells and prevents the premature aging of cells.
- It improves learning, memory and focus. Flavonoids in dark chocolate improve cognitive function. These compounds, in particular, are beneficial to the hippocampus — the part of the brain involved in learning and memory. Dark chocolate also contains a small amount of caffeine, a chemical known to boost brain function in a short amount of time. This can help in sharpening a person’s memory, mood and concentration.
- It is rich in minerals. Dark chocolate is rich in iron, copper, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus, minerals that play a part in a healthy body. Magnesium, in particular, helps the body produce cortisol, a hormone known to reduce anxiety and stress. Meanwhile, magnesium is linked with improved memory, focus, sleep and resilience to stress.
- It helps control food cravings. Researchers from the University of Copenhagendiscovered that eating dark chocolate reduces a person’s cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods. In the study, the team whether dark and milk chocolate can reduce appetite and calorie intake. In the study, participants were offered pizza after eating chocolate. Those who ate dark chocolate reported reduced cravings after eating.
- It supports gut health. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that drinking a flavonol-fortified cocoa drink increased the number of probiotics in the gut.
When buying dark chocolate, choose products with over 70 percent cocoa content; the higher the cocoa content, the higher flavonol levels are. Keep in mind, however, that this makes dark chocolate bitter. It’s also worth noting that while dark chocolate has health benefits, it’s still rich in calories and should be consumed in moderate amounts.
Food.news has more on the benefits of dark chocolate.
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