It is a cliché to say that everything that tastes good is bad for you and that every food you should be eating will make you turn up your nose. Even the famous fitness guru Jack Lalanne once said “If it tastes good, don’t eat it.” Thankfully the new age of health is upon us and we are beginning to understand that there are actually quite a few superfoods that don’t require choking down. Case in point: chocolate… Actually, dark chocolate. Although not as sweet as its milk-infused cousin, dark chocolate makes up for its initial bitterness with some amazing health benefits.
“Antioxidant” is a bit of a buzz word in the world of superfoods but that is only because it is an important measure of a foods ability to help prevent disease. Antioxidants have the ability to disarm free radicals which are
harmful compounds found in the body that can lead to the development of disease later on. It turns out, dark chocolate is one of the highest scoring foods around in tests of antioxidant content.
2. Improved Cholesterol
Adding a little dark chocolate to your diet will also help lower your levels of bad LDL cholesterol and enhance the presence of good HDL cholesterol in your blood. LDL cholesterol interacts with free radicals to cause your body harm, but in controlled trials cocoa powder (the main ingredient in dark chocolate) was been found to bring cholesterol levels into balance to promote optimal health.
3. Weight Loss
A nice added bonus to dark chocolate over milk chocolate is that you feel full for longer after eating a smaller amount of it. Dark chocolate has also been found to reduce cravings for other, more fattening foods that are rich in salt and sugar. The upshot is that eating a little dark chocolate might actually help you lose weight according to a 2014 study.
4. Reduced Blood Pressure
Dark chocolate may even have the ability to slightly reduce blood pressure. A meta-analysis of 20 different studies found that the evidence from the scientific community points toward cocoa relaxing blood vessels and improving blood flow, reducing a person’s risk of stroke. Given that stroke is one of the leading causes of death in the western world, even a modest reduction in blood pressure is a very good thing.
5. Reduces Skin Damage from UV Rays
On top of all the good it does for the inner-workings of your body, dark chocolate also helps protect your skin from the sun. A 2006 study in the Journal of Nutrition found that a long-term regimen of cocoa provides photoprotection for the skin against UV rays and improved the visible skin condition of a group of women. It might be time to put away the anti-aging cream and reach for a chocolate bar instead.
6. Heart Health
Not surprisingly, given the effect that dark chocolate can have of blood pressure and cholesterol, it has also been linked to improved cardiovascular health and reduced damage to the vessels of the heart. A 2010 study from the European Society for Clinical Nutrition found that people to regularly ate dark chocolate had significantly less evidence of heart attack inducing hard plaques in their arteries.
7. Enhanced Brain Function
Finally, what is good for your heart and skin is also apparently good for your brain. Dark chocolate has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain and improve cognitive function in health young adults. The effect of cocoa on blood flow has been linked to its flavanol content. The higher on the cocoa content of a particular piece of chocolate, the more flavanol it contains and the stronger the effect on blood flow. Generally experts recommend anything over 70% cocoa as being in the healthy range.