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Dark Chocolate, The New Super Food?
Chocolate is something that is famous around the world, and it has been for centuries. With a history going back several thousand years, chocolate is one of the most sought-after treats in the world. In many ancient cultures, chocolate was a luxury that only the most elite could afford; today, nearly everyone has access to chocolate in some form or another. Did you know, though, that chocolate comes in many forms — and no, we’re not just talking about chocolate syrup versus chocolate ice cream?
You may have even experienced cravings for chocolate, but you probably didn’t know that some forms of chocolate are actually good for you. The one that offers you the most in the way of health benefits is dark chocolate, mainly because it contains the highest rates of cocoa beans, which are very useful for your health. So, if you’re willing to give dark chocolate a try, you will not only satisfy your sweet tooth, but you’ll also reap some incredible benefits. You heard right: Dark chocolate can be good for you!
What Is Dark Chocolate?
Dark chocolate may be more appropriately referred to as “cacao.” In its natural and raw state, cacao isn’t sweet at all, so this is why milk and sugar is often added. Now, when it comes to chocolate, you should know that milk chocolate does not have the same benefits as raw cacao or dark chocolate. This is simply because it does not have any cocoa beans in it at all and is produced as a mixture of pasteurized milk and sugar. So be sure to look for raw cacao if you’re buying it for the health benefits. In its raw form, dark chocolate can be an acquired test because of the bitterness, but if you get used to it, it isn’t that bad.
Raw cacao is packed with something called polyphenols, and these ingredients are part of what makes dark chocolate bitter (that’s why many candy companies add milk and sugar to chocolate. Doing so makes it sweeter and more pleasing to the taste). However, polyphenols are the source of all that is good with dark chocolate, so try to tough it out if you can! Sometimes all it takes is just developing a taste for dark chocolate over the traditional milk chocolate that you’re used to. If you do, you’ll be rewarded with some amazing health benefits on top of a tasty snack!
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Health Benefits Of Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate, thanks to its high content of cocoa beans, is packed with the good stuff, including flavonoids, polyphenols, vitamins, and antioxidants. Antioxidants are the most common ingredient and one you’ve probably already heard of. In fact, the antioxidants in dark chocolate have been shown to control inflammation and protect your nerve function, as well as increase brain function. Pretty amazing!
Like anything else in life, the key to getting the most out of dark chocolate is using or consuming it in moderation. Dark chocolate is packed with powerful ingredients, but they won’t do you any good if your gorge yourself completely. Be careful with portion control, and you’ll be reaping the benefits of dark chocolate.
Of course, there’s many benefits to be had, but some of the better known include:
- Stress reduction – dark chocolate does a lot for improving your mood and reducing stress, and it does this by encouraging the body to release serotonin. Serotonin is your body’s natural anti-depressant.
- Lowers blood pressure – flavonoids in dark chocolate, especially in cacao, help reduce blood pressure. In fact, studies have shown that eating a small piece of dark chocolate every day actually improves blood pressure.
- Stimulates mental function – dark chocolate has the ability to increase blood flow to the brain and give you improved mental function. It also helps increase your focus level and improve memory function.
- Balances weight loss – dark chocolate can help with weight loss — yes, you read that right! This is because the fiber found in dark chocolate helps you feel full longer and may curb cravings for other snacks.
- Improves your complexion – antioxidants found in dark chocolate can help you regain that youthful glow and help keep your skin healthy. This is because dark chocolate targets free radicals, which are the root cause of wrinkles and “aged” skin.
- Regulates blood sugar – if you’re struggling with diabetes and trying to maintain your blood sugar, give dark chocolate a try. Some studies even suggest that a small, daily service of dark chocolate will help prevent diabetes.
Dark chocolate is also rich in unsaturated fats, which can impact your heart health and cholesterol levels in a good way. One of the fats found in dark chocolate comes from cocoa butter. Cocoa butter has been proven in medical trials to lower cholesterol when consumed in small quantities.
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Getting The Most Out Of Dark Chocolate
As you can see, dark chocolate has a lot of ingredients that can impact your health for the better. However, to get the most out of these health benefits, you have to research and pick the correct form of dark chocolate. Be sure to read the list of ingredients if you’re buying a “dark chocolate” bar from the grocery store. Since dark chocolate has become more popular, some brands are trying to capitalize on it and may be skimping on pure ingredients, so be sure to read the labels. If you see sugar as one of the first ingredients, be sure to pass on that brand and keep looking. The first ingredient in any dark chocolate bar should be “cocoa” or “cocoa solids.” If this ingredient is listed within the first several on the list, you have the perfect dark chocolate bar to boost your health.
Chocolate cravings are some of the most intense food cravings a person can experience, partly because chocolate triggers so many natural highs in our body. If you can channel these cravings into dark chocolate, which is good for you, you will not only satisfy your urges but you’ll also be doing something good for your health. What isn’t to like about that?