Since centuries, chocolates have been admired and enjoyed by one and all because of its unique taste. Chocolates have regularly been eaten for pleasure, especially dark chocolates. However, studies show that the high amounts of antioxidants in the cocoa seeds, flavonoids and other kinds of polyphenols, may have a few beneficial effects on one’s health. In this article, we have listed some health benefits of dark chocolates and how much you can eat.
Cocoa in Chocolates
Chocolate is basically a plant-based food, derived from the seeds of Theobroma cocoa tree. These seeds, also known as cocoa beans, are in fact storehouse of powerful antioxidants and can prevent fat-like substances in the bloodstream from oxidising and clogging the arteries.
However, it is the dark chocolates (high in cocoa content), which accounts for most of the health benefits over milk chocolates or chocolate syrups. Reason: dark chocolates are high in copper, which may help ward off cardiovascular disease.
According to research, cocoa flavonoids (catechins, epicatechins, and procyanidins) found in dark chocolates have a range of beneficial effects on the circulatory system of the body. The antioxidants present in them help to boost the elasticity of blood cells, thereby cutting down the risk of high blood pressure, blood clots, strokes and heart disease. Although the fat present in chocolates is saturated, the main saturated fat in chocolates is stearic acid, which has not been directly linked with raised blood cholesterol levels.
Additionally, the cocoa butter in chocolate has oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat with heart-friendly attributes of improving the HDL levels in the blood.
Chocolates also have phenylethylamine, (a mood elevator) and hence are good to relieve depression. The presence of flavonoids also imparts chocolates their anti-inflammatory properties and reduces the risk to many age-related chronic disorders. Chocolate, when added to milk, helps to counter lactose intolerance in some individuals.
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Is Dark Chocolate the New Superfood?
So, the question arises: is dark chocolate the new superfood which contributes to improved well-being? Should we eat dark chocolate for its health benefits as well as for its remarkable taste? Whilst the chocoholics would love to seize on the study findings, there is no doubt that chocolate is also a high-calorie food with high amounts of added fats and sugar.
The way most commercial chocolates and cocoas are typically processed destroys their phytochemicals and the associated beneficial attributes. It’s true that cocoa butter and dark chocolate do not raise blood cholesterol. But, if you’re consuming milk chocolate or lower grade chocolate, the total fat comes from milk fat or other sources. So, your cholesterol levels may increase.
Cocoa beans contain less amount of sugar and its carbohydrate content is majorly soluble and insoluble fibre. It is the sugar and fat added during the manufacturing of the chocolate that adds up the calorie content. This results in weight gain.
If people were to consume pure cocoa or eat only dark chocolates with a high proportion of cocoa solids, then only they would be able to enjoy the health benefits associated with the consumption of chocolates such as a positive effect on the blood pressure and glucose metabolism.
Most people eat the commonly available processed varieties with less desirable ingredients like added sugar, milk fats/solids and corn syrup. So, the chances of chocolates proving to be healthy are dim. If the chocolate you eat has less than 20% of cocoa content, then it would most definitely have fewer antioxidant properties. So, when consuming chocolates, it is very important to make an informed choice.
Health Benefits of Dark Chocolates
There is no denying that there are several health benefits of dark chocolates. They are rich in antioxidants and have 2-3 times more flavonoids than milk chocolate. So, they may be good for health, but so are fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts.
Dark chocolate makes an interesting fun food that brightens up a dark day. To get maximum health benefits of dark chocolates, choose a brand with cocoa content of 70% or more. It is advisable to avoid milk and milk products for up to 4 hours after you eat dark chocolate. Reason: many assume that epicatechin binds to the milk protein, thereby making them unavailable to the body. Dark chocolate is rich in copper and has few compounds which act as mood enhancers like serotonin.
People with sadness and anxiety experience instant improvement in mood, as chocolate stimulates endorphin production, giving a feeling of pleasure. So, dark chocolates (preferably sugar-free) eaten in moderation (one bar a week) can be a part of a healthy diet. But, stay away from overindulgence.
Try our Cold Chocolate Drink, which is delicious and curbs cravings for sweets. For more health tips or to get a personalised diet plan, call toll-free 1800-891-8131. You can also book an appointment with our experts.