When you think of chocolate, the terms dreamy, indulgence and guilty pleasure may come to mind. Yet did you know that the sweet delight can be healthy, too? Studies reveal that real dark chocolate — not its processed and sweetened milk counterpart — is loaded with incredible health benefits.
You can feel slightly less guilty about enjoying an ounce or two of the sinfully delicious food a few times a week — just be sure to choose a variety that contains at least 70% cocoa to attain the full effects.
Here are six scientifically proven ways this delectable confection can boost your physical and mental well-being:
- Rich in nutrients: Did you know that dark chocolate is made from a legendary superfood known as cacao? This key ingredient in chocolate offers a powerful mix of flavor and high levels of antioxidants such as polyphenols and flavanols, which can help combat free radicals that cause cellular damage. A high-quality bar containing 70% to 85% cocoa can provide a hefty portion of your recommended daily intake of minerals and vitamins such as potassium, zinc and iron. It’s also chock-full of other nutrients such as copper, magnesium, phosphorus, fatty acids and fiber. Since dark chocolate is made from cocoa butter, it’s low in polyunsaturated fat compared to white and milk varieties.
- Boost brain function: Consuming the healthful confection increases blood flow to the brain. Research suggests that high intake of quality dark chocolate may improve cognitive processing, working memory, visual-spatial awareness, problem-solving abilities and reaction time.
- Reduce symptoms of depression: The bitter tasting variety contains the potent antioxidant theobromine — a compound touted to have antidepressant effects. Dark chocolate containing 85% cocoa has a significant amount of phenethylamine, which is metabolized in your body into serotonin and can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression over the short term.
- Balance your microbiome: Did you know that dark chocolate contains gut-healthy probiotics? The aromatic candy has probiotics and prebiotics, which can help regulate digestion while feeding the existing good bacteria in your gut.
- Reduce blood pressure: An additional advantage of dark chocolate’s astonishing medicinal profile is that it can help lower blood pressure as well as relax your arteries and reduce the risk for heart disease. Recent studies have also shown that chocolate’s effect on lowering blood pressure can aid in pregnancy by improving fetal growth and reducing the risk of preeclampsia.
- Balance cholesterol levels: Searching for a natural way to raise your HDL (good) cholesterol? Dark chocolate may be the answer: The cocoa butter found in dark chocolate plays a key role in improving HDL cholesterol. Cocoa butter contains oleic acid, a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat — the same kind found in olive oil.
When you’re craving something sweet, opt for dark chocolate. Enjoy your next chocolatey bliss guilt-free while simultaneously promoting your health. An advisable portion of dark chocolate is about 1.5 ounces. Aim for a dose at least three times a week to cash in on the many benefits of the antioxidant powerhouse and true superfood.
Alex Marks is a sales manager with more than 15 years of corporate and wholesale experience, managing accounts for some of the world’s largest brands and retailers. Marks brings her sales knowledge and leadership to Mrs Prindables, overseeing the company’s Corporate Gifting, Promotional Products, Department Store, Affiliate and Wedding programs.