Dark chocolate is loaded with nutrients that can positively affect your health.
Made from the seed of the cocoa tree, it is one of the best sources of antioxidants on the planet.
Studies show that dark chocolate (not the sugary crap) can improve your health and lower the risk of heart disease.
This article reviews 5 health benefits of dark chocolate or cocoa that are supported by science.
1. May improve blood flow and lower blood pressure
The flavanols in dark chocolate can stimulate the endothelium, the lining of arteries, to produce nitric oxide (NO). One of the functions of NO is to send signals to the arteries to relax, which lowers the resistance to blood flow and therefore reduces blood pressure.
Many controlled studies show that cocoa and dark chocolate can improve blood flow and lower blood pressure, though the effects are usually mild. However, one study in people with high blood pressure showed no effect, so take all this with a grain of salt.
2. Dark chocolate can aid against diabetes
Chocolate has been shown to bolster endothelial function and insulin resistance. The endothelium is extremely important in maintaining arterial health and insulin resistance is the most commonly checked statistic to determine whether future diseases, like diabetes, will develop. Cocoa and its flavonoids help to positively modulate these systems.
Obviously, if you’re hoping to prevent diabetes, you’re going to want to eat low-sugar, dark chocolate.
3. Dark chocolate can improve LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol
Artherogenesis, caused by low-quality lipids being oxidized, is a degenerative condition of the arteries. Chocolate has been shown to prevent the oxidization of LDL cholesterol, which is one of the greatest contributors to artherogenesis.
So, when LDL cholesterol is oxidized, the LDL itself becomes reactive. This means it can damage your organs and your arteries and eventually cause cancer. It’s also effective at increasing the total amount of HDL cholesterol, the good kind.
4. Could improve brain function
The good news isn’t over yet. Dark chocolate may also improve the function of your brain.
One study of healthy volunteers showed that eating high-flavanol cocoa for five days improved blood flow to the brain
Cocoa may also significantly improve cognitive function in elderly people with mental impairment. It may improve verbal fluency and several risk factors for disease, as well.
5. May protect your skin from the sun
The bioactive compounds in dark chocolate may also be great for your skin.
The flavonols can protect against sun damage, improve blood flow to the skin and increase skin density and hydration. The minimal erythemal dose (MED) is the minimum amount of UVB rays required to cause redness in the skin 24 hours after exposure.
In one study of 30 people, the MED more than doubled after consuming dark chocolate high in flavanols for 12 weeks. If you’re planning a beach vacation, consider loading up on dark chocolate in the prior weeks and months.
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