This bit of news might be the most rewarding you will read this week, because it’s about chocolate. Chocolate is not only delicious, but it also has many known health benefits. Contain your urge to immediately leave the house and head to the grocery store, because not all chocolate is the same. Sorry.
What Makes Chocolate so Healthy?
Cocoa beans are the main ingredient of chocolate. Cocoa beans have many healthy compounds; the main one being flavanol. Flavanol is known for its cardiovascular benefits. Studies have shown a correlation between high intake of cocoa and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. A study including subjects with previous myocardial infarction showed a 66% decreased mortality rate with the group who ate chocolate twice a week. Cocoa has shown positive influences on inflammation, endothelial function, blood pressure, platelet function, and glucose transport. Unfortunately, these study participants aren’t eating Hershey’s chocolate bars.
For the Brain
Flavanol rich cocoa has benefits for brain health as well. Cocoa has properties that increase the blood flow to the brain by vasodilation. Increased blood flow to the brain could mean improved brain function. Cocoa has shown protective benefits to the electrical wiring of the brain by preventing cell death. The antioxidants in cocoa inhibit cell death by neurotoxins. Even studies that involved cognitive tests showed very slight improvements with cocoa intake leading to believe cocoa may reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Percentage of Cocoa Is Key
This next part is the most important. When buying dark chocolate, go for 75% or higher cocoa. A higher percentage of cocoa means more antioxidants. Also avoid chocolate that says “alkalized” or “Dutch-processed.” Alkalized and Dutch-process are a way of chemically removing the bitterness and harshness of cocoa beans. This greatly affects the cocoa because a large portion of the healthy compounds are removed.
There is no daily recommend amount to eat, but I suggest 1.5 oz of dark per day. Rejoice! Remember to buy dark with 75% or greater cocoa content and avoid the Dutch process or alkalization.
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