Dark chocolate should be everyone's best friend because it's an example of having it all, if such a thing exists. Why? Dark chocolate is packed with healthy compounds that actually make this indulgence good for you.
In case you're still stuck on milk or white chocolate only, here are eight reasons to go to the dark side. Come on, it's eating chocolate in the name of health:
1. Anti-inflammatory -- Inflammation is the body's natural response to an injury of some kind. Inflammation can cause pain, redness, warmth and swelling or a particular area and become quite uncomfortable. Dark chocolate has anti-inflammatory properties, meaning it supports a healthy inflammatory response that may prevent discomfort, as seen in a 2008 study published in The journal of nutrition.
2. Antioxidants -- Cocoa beans contain antioxidant compounds known as flavanols. The role of antioxidants is to fight of oxidative stress and damage to the cells of the body. Flavanols protect the heart from the damage related to heart disease, which can lead to immediate and long-term health problems. This benefit was seen in a 2006 study published in the Journal of agriculture and food chemistry.
3. Heart Support -- Antioxidant protection is just one of the many ways chocolate can support your heart. Dark chocolate is also known to benefit your heart by improving vascular health and function to lower blood pressure and improve blood flow, as demonstrated in a 2005 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. These actions may lower your risk for heart attack and/or stroke.
4. Circulation Booster -- As previously mentioned, cocoa contains flavanols, which are also known for improving blood flow throughout the body to keep all the body's systems working optimally. This means more oxygen and nutrient-rich blood makes it to your brain for better concentration, your heart for proper function and even your eyes, for better vision. These actions were demonstrated in a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which saw improved endothelial function and reduced blood pressure levels in overweight adults.
5. Fiber Source -- Dark chocolate contains more fiber than milk chocolate or white chocolate, which can contain a large amount of fat. Consuming dark chocolate will fill you up faster and keep you full longer. You'll eat less between meals and won't need a whole candy bar to feel satisfied.
6. Stress Reliever -- It's no secret chocolate is a comfort food and consuming foods we love boosts serotonin production, the happy hormone. The benefit of having a little dark chocolate to unwind is that less cortisol is produced. The stress hormone, cortisol can cause a wealth of health problems, such as weakened immunity and even weight gain.
7. Diabetes Fighter -- Early research as shown regular consumption of dark chocolate may improve insulin resistance in an effort to prevent diabetes. Participants in that same 2005 study also experienced greater insulin sensitivity after consuming 100 g of dark chocolate daily for a total of 15 days. All participants were considered healthy and abstained from consuming any cocoa for the seven days leading up to the study.
8. Cough Suppressant -- Dark chocolate contains theobromine, which is known to have antitussive benefits to quiet a cough. Will dark chocolate fight an infection that is causing the cough? Unfortunately not.
All of these benefits require further study before they can be 100 percent directly linked to dark chocolate consumption. What CAN be agreed upon at this point is dark chocolate is the preferred version if you're craving an indulgence.
The Best Ways to Enjoy Dark Chocolate
Try going for dark chocolate next time your sweet tooth is driving you crazy. When shopping for it, the higher the percentage of cocoa the better. This means the chocolate will be more bitter in taste, so combining it with other ingredients can give you the flavor your crave and all the benefits that come with it. Here are some great ways to have it:
Melt dark chocolate chips and dip fresh berries in it or make small clusters of almonds and chocolate.
Add some grated dark chocolate to your next batch of chili for a deep, earthy taste.
Combine grated dark chocolate with your favorite fruit in a smoothie.
Spread melted dark chocolate chips on whole wheat crackers with some almond butter.
Sprinkle dark chocolate chips on your morning oatmeal.
Cut a banana into coins. Make a sandwich with two coins and nut butter in the middle. Dip in melted dark chocolate and freeze.
The average recommended serving of dark chocolate per day is between 1 and 1 1/2 oz, so you shouldn't go adding it to everything you eat in a day. If you have any of the medical conditions described above, don't make any changes to your medication regimen without first speaking with your doctor.
Enjoy more dark chocolate this season for health's sake! Find dark chocolate goodies at eVitamins!