You'd be wrong to assume that all chocolate is unhealthy because the facts show that dark chocolate comes with several unique health benefits, such as its high antioxidant content compared to similar foods. In its purest form, dark chocolate – and the cocoa from which it’s made – not only tastes different but also has a better nutritional profile, so how exactly is dark chocolate better for you overall?
1. More cocoa in dark chocolate equals more fiber and minerals
A dark chocolate bar with at least 70 percent natural cocoa has more fiber and minerals than you might think. For example, a reasonably sized piece of dark chocolate contains high amounts of iron, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese, to name a few of the more common minerals. Dark chocolate also has a fatty acid profile that can have a neutralizing effect on body cholesterol. Specifically, studies have shown that consuming dark chocolate raises HDL cholesterol and inhibits LDL oxidation, making your heart and blood vessels healthier.
2. Positive effects on brain functioning
In addition, eating dark chocolate can also positively affect brain functioning since this particular food is high in antioxidants. High levels of the main antioxidants found in natural dark chocolate and cocoa – flavanols and polyphenols – improve blood flow by neutralizing free radicals throughout the body. One study found that this combination increases blood flow and leads to better cognition in elderly adults with mild cognitive dysfunction. It’s not a cure for their problems per se, but at the very least, eating dark chocolate makes notable improvements in brain functioning in those with impaired cognition.
3. Less sugar per serving, a different taste
If you've never tasted dark chocolate, don't assume that it's as sweet and sugary as the milk chocolate most people like. Dark chocolate is actually more bitter than milk chocolate, although it does contain a small amount of natural residual sugar. A simple rule of thumb is that a piece of dark chocolate will taste more bitter if it has a higher cocoa content. That's why pastry chefs prefer pure dark chocolate in specific recipes because the sugar content isn't as high, but from a health standpoint, consuming less sugar is always preferable when trying to maintain a healthy diet and an active lifestyle.
4. Lower risk of developing heart disease
Along those lines, dark chocolate can also lower the risk of developing heart disease. Once again, the food’s antioxidant properties shine through and lower blood pressure while also improving cholesterol levels in the blood. Surprisingly, one long-term study discovered that eating dark chocolate regularly correlated to a lower risk of heart disease by 57 percent! No matter how you look at it, that’s a significant improvement you can’t ignore since heart disease is still a top-line health concern as we age.
5. More antioxidants than acai berries and blueberries
Acai berries and blueberries are two foods with a pretty high concentration of antioxidants, but dark chocolate contains even more of these organic compounds. Not all organic compounds like antioxidants do the same thing; some are specific to the food. In this case, dark chocolate antioxidants contain many unique flavanols found in high amounts in cacao beans. So when planning a diet, adding dark chocolate to the mix gives you more options if you don’t want to lean too heavily on fruits as your antioxidant source.
It may surprise you, but many studies have confirmed that dark chocolate is better for you from a nutritional point of view. Who says you can't eat chocolate and still live a healthy lifestyle? The facts tell you can.