Eat Your Chocolate

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Wait, isn’t Chocolate Unhealthy?

We’ve all heard that we should limit our consumption of processed and high sugar foods in order to maintain and improve optimal health. So, this would include trying to lower the intake of chocolate into our diets, right? Popular belief that it is high in sugar and full of empty calories, eating dark chocolate in moderation has been proven to help promote health and even weight loss. Now I don’t mean you can indulge in an entire chocolate cake and expect to see positive results. In order to take full advantage of the amazing health benefits, it has to be dark chocolate with a cocoa content of at least 70%.

The darker the better

photo: BBC

Chocolate is made of cocoa beans from the cacao tree. Have you ever tasted unsweetened chocolate? It sounds like an oxymoron because we associate chocolate with sweetness, but non-processed chocolate is actually quite bitter. Once harvested, the cocoa beans are fermented and turned into cocoa butter and cocoa mass, which are then shipped around the world to factories producing chocolate. In these facilities, the varying amounts of sugar, milk, and vanilla being added to the cocoa butter will determine if the chocolate will become milk chocolate, dark chocolate, or white chocolate. Dark chocolate retains the most health benefits as it is the least processed one and has less sugar needed in the final product.

Dark chocolate is good for you

photo: The Daily Buzz

Heart Healthy:

Dark chocolate contains an antioxidant flavonoid called flavonols. Studies have shown that individuals with higher levels of flavonols have a reduced risk of developing heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and lung disease.  

Loaded with Vitamins and Minerals

 50 grams or 1.75oz of quality dark chocolate is loaded with important vitamins and minerals that contribute to maintaining a healthy function of the body. According to Authority Nutrition, dark chocolate contains:

  • 5% Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of Fiber
  • 33% RDA of Iron
  • 29% RDA of Magnesium
  • 45% RDA of Copper
  • 49% RDA of Manganese

Sun Protection

Eating dark chocolate contains catechins and phenols, important antioxidants that help protect the skin from sun damage and skin cancer after being exposed to the powerful ultraviolet rays. Medical doctor, Frank Lipman, recommends we should be eating two ounces of dark chocolate daily in order to benefit from dark chocolate’s health properties.

Brain Boosting

Eating good quality dark chocolate can have positive effects on the brain and help with memory, reduce stress, improve cognition, and protect the brain from damage.

  • Chocolate makes you happy:
    • The consumption of chocolate produces endorphins in the brain, thus increasing your mood. Chocolate also contains magnesium that helps reduce stress in the body and has a calming effect.
  • Increases blood flow to the brain:
    • A study from Harvard Medical School found that eating or drinking chocolate improves memory, reaction-time, and problem solving skills. Researchers gave two sets of participants a test to complete, and those who drank chocolate before the test did 30% better than the control group.
  • Brain Protection:
    • The cocoa in dark chocolate contains powerful antioxidants that protect the brain from free radicals. Counteracting the damage from the free radicals, the antioxidants can help slow down premature brain aging and help produce healthy brain tissue.
  • Helps you remember:
    • The flavonoid antioxidant in dark chocolate stimulates the memory region of the brain. Dark chocolate has also been shown to help reduce the risk of developing dementia and early onset Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Healthy Stomach, Healthy Brain:
    • Your stomach contains both good bacteria and bad bacteria. Dark chocolate helps improve the healthy bacteria in the intestines while keeping the bad bacteria in check. If the body has too much of the bad intestinal bacteria, it has negative effects on the functions of the brain as the development of healthy brain tissue is compromised.

So, Is Chocolate a Superfood?

So go ahead, indulge in that chocolate craving while reaping the amazing benefits of dark chocolate. From sun protection, to memory/cognitive improvement, to a reduced  risk of developing illnesses and disease – dark chocolate is truly a superfood. Remember to eat dark chocolate in moderate amounts as the sweet treat is calorie dense and a small amount goes a long way.

 

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About Author

Sarah Humphreys

This is Sarah Humphreys’ first term at Antioch University Santa Barbara after previously being enrolled at Santa Barbara City College. While at Antioch, her goal is to complete her bachelor’s degree with a concentration in Psychology. Born and raised in Santa Cruz, California, Sarah moved to Santa Barbara a few years ago when she was beginning her college education. Outside of school, she enjoys being outdoors in nature, going to the beach, hiking or kayaking with friends.

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