Dark chocolate lovers, rejoice! Here are 7 healthy reasons to keep enjoying your dark chocolate!
- Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants. Antioxidants protect your cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals (see my post from yesterday “What You May Not Have Known about Free Radicals”). Eating foods rich in antioxidants, including dark chocolate, may help prevent cancer and slow signs of aging.
- Dark chocolate lowers blood pressure. In a 2003 study, Dirk Taubert, MD, PhD and colleagues reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that dark chocolate (not white chocolate) lowers high blood pressure. The study had a dark chocolate group and a white chocolate group. The systolic blood pressure fell an average of five points and the diastolic, an average of two points in the dark chocolate group (blood pressure remained unchanged in the white chocolate group). The darker the chocolate, the lower the blood pressure.
- Dark chocolate is good for your heart. Lower blood pressure is associated with better blood flow, which may prevent the formation of blood clots and may also prevent arteriosclerosis, or the hardening of your arteries. According to Davide Grassi and colleagues, flavonoids in chocolate appear to decrease cardiovascular disease risk factors. Eating dark chocolate helps make your heart healthier.
- Dark chocolate is good for your brain. Better blood flow associated with lower blood pressure increases blood flow to your brain, which reduces your risk of stroke and can improve cognitive function.
- Dark chocolate helps control blood sugar. Dark chocolate has flavonoids, B vitamins that may help reduce insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. Dark chocolate has a low glycemic index, which prevents spikes in your blood sugar levels when eating dark chocolate, helping to prevent insulin resistance.
- Dark chocolate is low in cholesterol. One ounce of 70% dark chocolate has only 1 milligram (mg) of cholesterol, well within the American Heart Association’s guidelines of 300 mg per day! Reducing cholesterol intake reduces the risk of heart disease and other chronic degenerative diseases.
- Dark chocolate is a mood enhancer. Phenylethylamine (PEA) found in chocolate is the same chemical your brain releases when you feel like you’re falling in love. PEA causes your brain to release endorphins, your body’s natural opiates, which makes you feel good!
Keep in mind that chocolate is high in fat, so don’t go too overboard eating dark chocolate. It’s best to limit yourself to about 1 ounce per day. I think I'll grab some right now!