Chocolate. Chances are, you’re either craving it or trying to avoid it. It is a common belief that having sweets increases your weight. As a result, many people develop an aversion to chocolates and other sweets. Well, if you’re one of those people, you are probably right when it comes to milk chocolates. But when it comes to dark chocolates, you could not be more wrong. There are a number of benefits of eating dark chocolates. But before we get to them, let’s learn a little bit about what exactly dark chocolate is.
What is dark chocolate?
Cocoa beans from the cacao tree are roasted and blended with fat and sugar to get dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is also referred to as black chocolate. The interesting distinguishing feature of dark chocolate is that it is not sweet to taste, but rather bittersweet. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the more bitter the chocolate is.
Why should you eat dark chocolate regularly?
Dark chocolate is a source of antioxidants; with a potent store of minerals like iron, manganese, potassium, copper, magnesium, selenium, zinc etc. It is also a good source of soluble fiber.
Research has established that dark chocolate, when consumed in healthy portions, can be highly beneficial in the following ways-
- Dark chocolate is a stress buster
Stressed after a long day at work? Keep calm and nibble dark chocolate. The best way is to prepare a freshening smoothie, toss dark chocolate into it, and gulp it down till the last drop. Dark chocolate boosts the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is a natural antidepressant. Stress related chemical compounds see a decline when pure dark chocolate is consumed. Furthermore, minerals like magnesium also reduce the irritability associated with stress and depression.
- Effective cough suppressant
Are you plagued by an incessant cough? Try a bite of dark chocolate; it suppresses a cough by relaxing the nerves that cause a cough through a chemical compound known as theobromine. There are no side effects, such as drowsiness, which makes it a good alternative to traditional cough suppressants.
- Regulates blood cholesterol
Cocoa reduces the bad cholesterol (LDL- Low-density lipoprotein) in blood and prevents the oxidation of LDL. Normally, LDL is the culprit in forming the fat emboli in blood that clog blood vessels, leading to cardiovascular diseases and stroke. There are also studies that found that the levels of HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein) or good cholesterol are higher in people who consume dark chocolate, though the exact reason for this is as yet unknown.
- Reduces the chances of stroke
Flavonoids, a powerful antioxidant, is present in dark chocolate. As people age, the oxidation in the body increases. This leads to changes in the blood vessels as well. The oxidation process damages the endothelium of the blood vessels, leading to the release of substances that cause the blood to clot. These clots clog small arteries of the brain, leading to stroke. Flavonoids act against this mechanism by protecting the blood vessels from oxidation. So dark chocolate taken once a week effectively reduces the incidence of stroke.
- Regulates blood pressure
Flavonoids also regulate blood pressure. This is because the antioxidants act on the inner blood vessel walls and release the chemical nitric oxide, which causes vasodilatation (reduces the tension of the arteries) and lowers the pressure of the blood.
- Regulates blood sugar
Dark chocolate increases insulin sensitivity, that helps reduce blood sugar levels. When insulin sensitivity is increased, the metabolism of the carbohydrates is boosted, leading to increased consumption of carbs. This helps in maintaining optimum blood sugar levels in the blood.
- Increases the activity of the brain
The vasodilatation mechanism of black chocolate increases the blood flow to the brain, thereby helping with concentration. Though the long term effects of dark chocolate on the brain are yet to be studied, in the short term, it helps in learning and boosts memory. So the next time you feel tired or fatigued during reading, pop a piece of dark chocolate into your mouth and chew. It will help you regain concentration, and keep you active.
- Helps in weight loss
The fiber content of the dark chocolate causes early satiety and decreases craving for high-calorie foods. So the next time you are dieting, don’t forget to add a little dark chocolate to your diet once or twice a week. It will help you avoid binge-eating.
- Maintains the glow of the skin
The antioxidants in dark chocolate act against the oxidation mechanisms in the skin, and thus helps in maintaining the glow of the skin. It, therefore, makes you look younger.
- Controls diarrhoea
Pure dark chocolate controls diarrhoea. This can be attributed to the presence of antioxidants. If your kid is down with diarrhoea, give the kid a piece of black chocolate.
So the next time you bite into dark chocolate, don’t feel guilty. Rather, remember that you are pampering yourself for a good cause. Eating dark chocolate is not only healthy, but it will also make you feel good. You can try dark chocolates with milk shakes, smoothies, cakes; or simply have it as a chocolate. Of course, keep a check on how much you consume too if you really want the dark chocolate to be beneficial.