7 Reasons Eating Dark Chocolate Everyday is Good For You
Dark chocolate: how can something so good be so bad for you? Well, here’s the thing – it’s actually not! Dark chocolate is made from cacao beans, which are powerful sources of flavanols, a type of antioxidant. Despite an arduous process of fermentation, roasting, and powdering that turns cacao beans into the smooth chocolate treat we adore today, the flavanols are not lost in the mill, and neither are their numerous health benefits. Here are seven reasons eating dark chocolate is good for you – one for every day of the week!
Monday – Improves heart health
Flavanols in dark chocolate protect against arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation, which increases likelihood of stroke, heart failure, and even death. A study by Harvard monitored 55,000 respondents over a course of 13 years. Diet studies found that those who ate two to six servings of chocolate a week had lower rates of atrial fibrillation compared to those who had less than two or more than seven servings a week.
Tuesday – Decreases blood pressure
The same flavanols also help keep down blood pressure. Flavanols are antioxidants, which means that they reduce the process of oxidation in our bodies. Oxidation is responsible for the formation of toxic waste products called free radicals. An excess of free radicals encourages low-density lipoproteins, or “bad cholesterol”, to cling to artery walls and clog them with plaque.
Flavanols reduce the process of oxidation, so less plaque forms on blood vessel walls. Another Harvard study found that dark chocolate increases levels of high-density lipoprotein or “good cholesterol”. It also encourages dilation of blood vessels. The resulting clearer pathways for blood lowers blood pressure and improves circulation to brain and heart, reducing risk for stroke or heart attack.
Wednesday – Prevents diabetes
Dark chocolate also contains other polyphenols that improves insulin sensitivity, thus keeping down blood sugar. A study by the University of Maine found that eating dark chocolate at least once a week resulted in lower risk for diabetes. Meanwhile people who ate chocolate less than once a week had double the risk for developing diabetes. Dark chocolate can prevent – or at the very least delay – the onset of adult diabetes. If you happen to already have diabetes, eating dark chocolate can help decrease fasting blood sugar.
Thursday – Raises mood and energy
Remember how in Harry Potter, quality chocolate is the go-to remedy for the sadness you feel after a dementor attack? The flavanols in dark chocolate increase serotonin, the hormone that regulates mood and lifts feelings of depression. This results in feelings of happiness, pleasure, and a lighter mood. Meanwhile, dark chocolate’s caffeine and theobromine content raises energy levels. Make sure not to fall into the trap of habitually using chocolate to wake or cheer yourself up though, or you’ll be defeating the purpose by overloading yourself with sugar.
Friday – Boosts cognitive function
A study by Dr. Lee Berk of Loma Linda University in California discovered that antioxidants in chocolate could increase a certain brain frequency called gamma frequency. Gamma waves in the brain are concerned with complex information processing – cognition, memory, and recall included. Berk’s study found that consuming dark chocolate resulted in a massive increase of gamma frequency – thus increased cognition, memory, and recall – within thirty minutes of consumption. The effects lasted for over two hours. That’s a good reason to pop a square of chocolate just before studying for a big test!
Further studies are underway to explore whether dark chocolate might be especially beneficial to elderly people suffering from dementia.
Saturday – Stimulates sex drive
Dark chocolate has enjoyed a centuries-long reputation of being a potent aphrodisiac. It’s not just a traditional story – scientifically, dark chocolate contains a stimulant called phenylethylamine or PEA, which triggers opium-like hormones called endorphins. This produces feelings of giddiness or excitement. Dark chocolate also contains compounds called methylxanthines that increase your skin’s sensitivity to touch. Add to that the pleasurable effects of serotonin, and you’ve got a cocktail of brain chemicals priming your body up for love.
Sunday – Prevents tooth decay
Your parents’ admonitions that chocolate is bad for your teeth is only half a myth. Moderate amounts of dark chocolate are actually good for your teeth! Theobromine in dark chocolate hardens tooth enamel, making teeth stronger and preventing cavities. A word of warning though – sugar is the ingredient in chocolate responsible for tooth decay. Stick to dark chocolate with less sugar content to be able to prove your parents wrong!
How much dark chocolate is good for you per day?
Now, these benefits are not a go-signal to binge on multiple bars of chocolate a week! While there’s still no official recommended daily amount for dark chocolate, all the studies mentioned noted that eating up to 1-2 ounces a day produces health benefits. Meanwhile, going above that amount puts too much sugar into your system and defeats the good effects of the antioxidant content.
Limit your chocolate consumption to dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate. Dark chocolate contains less sugar and fat than milk chocolate. Check the nutritional label as well – aim for dark chocolate that has higher cacao content – at least 70%. The higher the percentage of cacao, the higher the amount of flavanols and antioxidants.