The health benefits of dark chocolate are newly discovered, it has been found to have the potential to prevent and cure heart diseases, cancer, stroke and diabetes. It is also good for the skin among many other amazing benefits. It contains antioxidants which helps get rid of free radicals in the body which cause all sorts of diseases.
Chocolate is made from the cacao plant, which is found in rainforests. Unlike other plants, the cacao tree does not grow directly from its seeds but grows them inside pods. The dried and fermented pulp of this fruit produces cocoa solids which are then separated to produce raw cocoa powder or unsweetened baking chocolate.
This powder is then mixed with cocoa butter and sugar where by it is then molded into the shape of bars, which are called chocolate candy or if packaged properly can be sold in the market as dark chocolate.
The benefits of raw (unprocessed) cocoa powder have been known for a long time. It was only recently that the more common form of consuming this chocolate, the processed form or chocolates, have been the subject of scientific research.
Cocoa powder can also be used to make cocoa butter (the natural fat extracted from cacao beans), it is then pressed into blocks and becomes a solid mass that melts easily at human body temperature. This is what makes up chocolate candy bars, the cocoa butter and sugar. If properly processed, it can become a healthy chocolate containing various vitamins and minerals such as copper (which is good for the nervous system), magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc.
The most prevalent form of dark chocolate or candy bar today contain around 60-80% cocoa in them whereas pure raw cacao powder is about 70% cocoa.
Dark Chocolate and its Health Benefits
Cardiovascular diseases are the number one killer in America today accounting for nearly half of all deaths every year. One form of cardiovascular disease is angina which can cause a heart attack or stroke. A study has shown that eating cacao as dark chocolate was effective in treating angina, the levels of blood flow in the heart were increased by nearly thirty percent.
Some other benefits are that eating dark chocolate helps protect against strokes and heart disease because it contains flavonoids which prevent blood clots from forming. Also as well as lowering serum cholesterol while increasing HDL cholesterol (the good kind),it also reduces a person’s risk of developing coronary heart disease by nearly twenty percent. Also it has been found that dark chocolate may help to prevent blood clotting which can lead to strokes and heart attacks.
A study done with rats had those who were given cacao powder have shown better overall brain function, they have also shown positive results in antioxidant levels and had greater cognitive function.
Dark chocolate can also help people with diabetes, a study of diabetic rats showed that the blood sugar levels were reduced and insulin sensitivity was improved. It also prevents oxidative stress in the body which is implicated as one of the causes of diabetes.
Cancer is another major concern today with so many people being diagnosed with cancer. It is usually the result of a mutation in DNA which can cause tumors to form that invade and destroy body cells. A study has shown that eating dark chocolate may help prevent cancer because it contains antioxidants and polyphenols which kill off free radicals in the body. Also cacao extract contains alkaloids, flavonoids (such as epicatechin) and phenolic acids all of which have been shown to prevent cancer.
Dark Chocolate and its Health Benefits for Women with PMS
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a common disorder affecting women during their monthly menstrual cycle, it usually lasts for three to seven days, symptoms can be as mild as mild depression or irritability or as severe as extreme fluctuations in moods and physical discomfort. PMS has been linked with deficiencies of micronutrients such as B group vitamins, vitamin E and magnesium.
Cacao has been shown to reduce the severity of PMS symptoms such as irritability, lethargy, headache among others. The polyphenol in cacao called epicatechin was found to improve blood flow in key areas of the brain linked to moods and other hormones involved with PMS.
Drawbacks of dark chocolate:
Although there are many proven health benefits of dark chocolate, it is important to remember that moderation must be observed. It is recommended not to exceed thirty gram (one ounce) of dark chocolate a day. A small amount of Cacao powder can also have the same effects as eating dark chocolate. It should only be used in moderation as well and not exceed a teaspoon per day.
How to eat dark chocolate
There are a few ways to enjoy dark chocolate. You can buy chocolate bars that already have the cocoa bean crushed into it and are ready to be eaten right from the bar or you can also purchase pure cacao powder which has no added sugar. Cacao powder may also be mixed with warm water for hot chocolate, or even made into a drink with almond milk and ice.
How much dark chocolate a day is good for you
It is recommended that dark chocolate be eaten in moderation. The average bar of dark chocolate has about two ounces, which is equivalent to thirty grams. In addition, the recommendation when it comes to pure cocoa powder is no more than a teaspoon per day.
When to eat dark chocolate
It is best to eat a small piece of dark chocolate about twenty minutes before meals. It will help your body and mind digest the meal properly and also provide protection against cardiovascular disease. Just make sure that you do not exceed the recommended amount per day for it will be unhealthy for your body.
Just a quick reminder, chocolate should be eaten in moderation especially if you are already suffering from cardiovascular disease or have high blood pressure. If it is already prescribed by a physician or dietitian to limit your intake of saturated fats and sodium, then just remember that eating chocolate is not the best idea if you want to improve your heart health.