Who doesn’t like chocolate? Is there anyone who can genuinely say that they don’t like this smooth, heavenly treat? If you happen to answer “yes” to this question, which I seriously doubt, it would have to be because you haven’t tasted the right chocolate yet.

Like coffee, which in order to taste its exact flavor, aroma and depth you should drink it black, with no added sugar or milk, chocolate needs to be dark. And the truth is, the darker the chocolate the better it is.

Those of you that your skin crawls just by hearing the word “dark” accompanying chocolate it is time to think again. We have all heard for many years that dark chocolate should be our choice since it is so much healthier and has so many health benefits. And so it should be.

Dark chocolate contains higher percentage of cocoa and certainly a lot less sugar and fat than milk chocolate, hence making it more bitter. Still, all its health wonders are due to this bitterness, its cocoa content. It is important to choose dark chocolate with high cocoa content (at least 70%) as it contains less sugar and, also, the cocoa used should be organically grown. Bite a piece and enjoy its healthy benefits.

Good for your heart

dark choc heartsWe have heard it many times that dark chocolate is good for your heart and the truth is it is. In a recent study, published on The FASEB Journal in March this year, scientists found that dark chocolate protects the heart by restoring flexibility to arteries and by preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels. Both of these factors play a significant role in atherosclerosis.

Also, dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which are similar to vitamins and are powerful anti-oxidants, as well as polyphenols. Studies have shown an association between a diet rich in flavonoids and polyphenols and reduced risk of heart disease. It’s also possible that flavonoids in chocolate may decrease blood concentrations of bad cholesterol and reduce blood pressure.

Good for your brain

While most studies look on how chocolate may be good for your heart, there are only a few, if only one, focusing on its benefits for reducing stroke. The results of this study are really encouraging since men eating approximately 63 grams of dark chocolate per week had a lower risk of stroke compared to those who did not consume any chocolate. The leading author of the study, Dr Susanna C. Larsson in Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, concludes that “the beneficial effect of chocolate consumption on stroke may be related to the flavonoids in chocolate.”

Improves insulin sensitivity/controls blood sugar

Dark chocolate as mentioned above is rich in polyphenols. Studies have indicated a beneficial effect of dark chocolate rich in polyphenols on improving insulin sensitivity, and possibly on preventing or delaying the onset of diabetes. Dark chocolate also has a low glycemic index, therefore it won’t cause huge fluctuation in blood sugar levels.

Helps ease emotional stress

Woman biting into dark chocolateWhen I am feeling down I crave chocolate and so do many of my friends. Until recently, we thought that this was because we had a sweet tooth for chocolate but a study, published online in ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research in 2009, came to clear up the air.

Research has shown that eating about an ounce and a half of dark chocolate a day for two weeks reduced levels of stress hormones in the bodies of people feeling highly stressed. Everyone’s favorite treat also partially corrected other stress-related biochemical imbalances.

Potential benefit for liver patients

According to a Spanish research, eating dark chocolate reduces damage to the blood vessels of cirrhotic patients and also lowers blood pressure in the liver due to its potent antioxidants it contains.

It is highly nutritious

Yes, pleasure can come with high nutritional value. Dark chocolate contains a number of vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, copper, magnesium and iron. It is also a great source of fibre. The fatty acid profile of cocoa and dark chocolate is also very good. The fats are mostly saturated and monounsaturated, with small amounts of polyunsaturates.

Of course, having many health benefits does not imply that chocolate can substitute prescribed medications nor that you should consume lots of it every day. It is still loaded with calories and easy to overeat on.

Maybe have a square or two after dinner and try to really savor them. It should be considered as a protective snack against health dangers and always consumed in moderation to avoid weight gain. Enjoy!

Lab scientist, sharp dresser and cooking guru Maria is one half of the original alwaysladies.com founding team. She brings her opinions with earnestness and a smile, even when there are razor blades inside.

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