When people talk about healthy living and healthy eating, some of the first food examples that spring to mind are generally fresh fruits and vegetables, along with extra lean cuts of meat, fish, all washed down with plenty of water. Whilst all of the aforementioned ingredients are indeed fantastically healthy, the truth is that they can be pretty bland and tasteless, and let’s face it, there aren’t many people that are going to be overly excited about sitting down to tuck into a steamed chicken breast salad now, is there? When we think of healthy produce in fact, chocolate is probably one of the last foods we imagine, because chocolate makes you fat and is bad for you, right? Well, not exactly. You see, chocolate in its natural form, is basically just cocoa beans, which are very healthy. Chocolate becomes unhealthy when it is processed and turned into the chocolate bars we all know and love that are sold in supermarkets and stores all across the globe every single day. Cocoa butter, cream, milk, salt, sugar, and various other additives are often added to chocolate, especially milk chocolate, which then makes it far more unhealthy. Dark chocolate however, is far more natural, contains far, far less added ingredients, and is actually considered a superfood by many. Yes, that does indeed mean that a little dark chocolate now and then, is not only okay, but could actually boost your health and fitness, and could even help promote weight loss. Here are 8 fab benefits of dark chocolate.
It can promote optimal heart function and health
Dark chocolate has been found to help promote heart health and function in a number of different ways. To begin with, dark chocolate which was at least 70% pure cocoa, was found to help reduce LDL cholesterol and boost HDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is a harmful cholesterol that clogs the arteries and causes no end of health complications, whereas HDL cholesterol is a healthy cholesterol that actually helps reduce LDL cholesterol and promotes digestive health and well-being. The chocolate is rich in natural flavonoids which help to dilate the blood vessels and veins, helps to improve their flexibility, helps to reduce blood pressure, and help to improve circulation.
It helps to reduce stress
We all find ourselves suffering from stress, anxiety, and possibly even depression at some point or another, because let’s face it, life can be pretty stressful at times. One of the most effective benefits of dark chocolate, is that it has been scientifically and medically proven to help reduce stress in a number of different ways. The main reason for this is that consuming dark chocolate helps to increases natural levels of serotonin within the body, which is a potent neurotransmitter responsible for making us feel calm, relaxed, happy, confident, and it even helps promote a good night’s sleep. Not only that, but it also contains ingredients which help to reduce stress-boosting hormones as well.
It helps regulate blood sugar
People with diabetes, or erratic blood sugar levels, tend to avoid chocolate because most chocolate is packed full of added sugar for extra sweetness, which of course bumps up the glycemic index of the food greatly. Dark chocolate however, ranks low on the glycemic index chart and so will not cause dramatic spikes in insulin levels following its consumption. Dark chocolate doesn’t contain added sugar which is why it is much more bitter than milk chocolate, and the fact it contains no added sugar makes it far healthier, especially for people who need to constantly monitor their blood sugar levels.
It helps to promote brain health
Another great benefit of dark chocolate is the fact that it helps to promote optimal brain health and function in a number of different ways. To begin with, dark chocolate is packed full of powerful antioxidants that benefit the brain and neurotransmitters working in correspondence with the brain. On top of that, as dark chocolate boosts circulation and blood flow, it allows more oxygen-rich blood to be transported to the brain, which basically allows the brain to absorb more oxygen, thus making it more efficient. This helps improve memory, reaction time, alterness in general, and more besides. There is even evidence to suggest it could help prevent degenerative diseases such as dementia or Alzheimer’s particularly later on in life.
It improves energy levels and focus
Dark chocolate, whilst still being very healthy, does contain a higher number of calories compared with most foods, but these calories are actually able to be utilized by the body much easier than in other foods such as milk chocolate, meaning that once consumed, the metabolism converts them to energy right away, rather than storing them as body fat for a later date. Cocoa also naturally contains caffeine, which is a natural stimulant and so dark chocolate also increases your physical and mental energy and focus levels.
It assists with weight loss
Ok, now things are getting too good to be true – chocolate to help lose weight? Nope, we haven’t gone mad, dark chocolate really can help you to lose weight, providing you’re sensible of course. To begin with it is rich in fiber, which helps weight loss because it keeps you feeling full for longer, and so the fuller you feel the less you eat which means the less calories you consume. It’s also rich in potent antioxidants and caffeine, both of which help to stimulate the metabolism, forcing it to speed up, burn more calories and generate more energy as a result. This isn’t an excuse to eat pounds upon pounds of the stuff each week, because it still contains calories and natural fats. A few squares following your dinner however, will not hurt in the slightest.
It’s a great anti-cancer food
As mentioned, dark chocolate is packed full of antioxidants, which in turn help to destroy and eliminate free-radicals within the body before they have chance to attack our cells and cause them to mutate into cancerous ones. The antioxidants found in dark chocolate help to protect against a number of cancers, which is another great reason to eat more.
Ok, need more benefits of dark chocolate? How about the fact that it’s chocolate and it’s healthy! It’s rare we find a healthy food that we actually look forward to eating, so embrace dark chocolate, enjoy it in moderation, and make sure you combine it with a healthy and balanced diet, and regular exercise.