Dark chocolate – a superfood. Sounds too incredible to be true, doesn’t it? That’s because the answer, according to many physicians is: “yes. But let's not go overboard, there are some things to consider.
The more cacao dark chocolate has, the more it is rich in minerals, such as iron, magnesium, and zinc. The cocoa in dark chocolate also contains antioxidants called flavonoids, which may provide several health benefits.
Dark chocolate possesses several compounds that have antioxidant properties, namely flavanols and polyphenols. Compounds that possess antioxidant properties neutralize free radicals and prevent oxidative stress. Oxidative stress refers to the damage that excessive amounts of free radicals inflict on cells and tissues in the body. Oxidative stress contributes to the natural aging process.
Eating cacao regularly may help reduce your chances of developing heart disease. Some of the compounds in dark chocolate, specifically flavanols, impact two major risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
The flavanols in dark chocolate stimulate nitric oxide production in the human body. Nitric oxide causes blood vessels to dilate, or widen, which improves blood circulation and lowers blood pressure.
A 2015 study investigated the effects of chocolate consumption in 60 people with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. The researchers found that participants who consumed 25g of dark chocolate daily for 8 weeks had significantly lower blood pressure than those who ate the same quantity of white chocolate.
Cacao contains certain compounds, such as polyphenols and theobromine, that may lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the body and boost levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Doctors often refer to LDL cholesterol as “bad cholesterol” and HDL cholesterol as “good cholesterol.
According to a 2017 study, eating dark chocolate for 15 days helped raised HDL cholesterol levels in people living with HIV. However, the consumption of dark chocolate did not affect LDL cholesterol levels in the study participants.
Chronic inflammation is a part of the body’s natural immune response to germs and other harmful substances. Nevertheless, this may cause damage to cells and tissues and may increase the risk of some conditions, including type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and certain types of cancer. Dark chocolate contains compounds with anti-inflammatory properties that may help decrease inflammation in the body.
In 2018, a pilot study involving five healthy people examined the effects of dark chocolate on the immune system. The results suggested that consuming huge amounts of 70-percent dark chocolate alters the activities of genes that regulate immune response. However, it remains uncertain what this study will bring to medical science in the future.
In addition, a study published in 2018 found that eating 30 grams of dark chocolate containing 84% cocoa solids each day for 8 weeks significantly reduced inflammatory biomarkers in people with type 2 diabetes. The study’s authors concluded that there is a need for additional studies to assess the optimal amounts of dark chocolate to use when treating those with diabetes.
Insulin resistance occurs when the body’s cells do not respond to the hormone insulin. Insulin resistance can lead to abnormally high levels of blood glucose, resulting in prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
A study from 2018, examining the relationship between regular dark chocolate consumption and blood glucose levels among Hispanic individuals, suggests that eating up to 48 g of 70-percent dark chocolate each day may help combat fasting glucose levels and reduce insulin resistance.
Brain functionEating dark chocolate may improve brain function and help prevent neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Cacao is a rich source of antioxidants and minerals, and usually contain less sugar than milk chocolate. Some research suggests that cacao may help lower the risk of heart disease, reduce inflammation and insulin resistance, and improve brain function. People interested in adding dark chocolate regularly to their diet should keep in mind that when there are added sugars it can be high in fat and calories, so moderation is key.