Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Benefits of Dark Chocolate

The bittersweet properties of dark chocolate may be a candy choice that’s actually good for you. Used medicinally over 5,000 years ago, chocolate is linked to a variety of health benefits. The benefits of dark chocolate have been specifically studied with findings that have many people reaching for chunks to add to their afternoon pick me up.

60% or More

Cacao, the active compound in dark chocolate, offers a variety of health advantages. However, before you go chomping down any old dark chocolate brand it is important to note that 60% or more of cacao must be in it to downy good. Less sugar and more cacao can go a long way especially when you start falling asleep at your desk.

Reawaken, Refocus

In a recent study by researchers at Northern Arizona University, it was found that snacking on a small amount of dark chocolate that contains 60% or more of cacao may help you get over  afternoon fatigue. According to Dr. Larry Stevens, professor of psychological sciences at Northern Arizona University,

“[Dark] Chocolate is indeed a stimulant and it activates the brain in a really special way. It can increase brain characteristics of attention, and it also significantly affects blood pressure levels.  A lot of us in the afternoon get a little fuzzy and can’t pay attention, particularly students, so we could have a higher cacao content chocolate bar and it would increase attention,” (Natural News)

Inside the Skull

Dr. Stevens studied these effects by observing brain activity before and after consumption  of dark chocolate combined with L-theanine, an amino acid component fond in green tea.

Using an electroencephalography (EEG) technique for the first time in such a study, the effects harbored some impressive results. Overall, those that consumed the dark chocolate outperformed those that did not consume it.

These results could lead the way to production of a “healthier chocolate.”

Dr. Stevens excitedly comments,

“It’s remarkable. The potential here is for a heart healthy chocolate confection that contains a high level of cacao with L-theanine that is good for your heart, lowers blood pressure, and helps you pay attention,”

ORAC and Theobromine

There are many other studies regarding the health benefits of dark chocolate. Particularly those that looked at dark chocolate’s Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) as well as the effects of the alkaloid theobromine.

The ORAC test combines a high antioxidant food with dangerous free radicals to observe he food’s disarming capability. It turns out that raw, unprocessed cocoa beans (cacao) scored as one of the highest foods on the ORAC scale.

Theobromine acts similar to caffeine with less negative effects on the central nervous system such as high anxiety, jitters, sweating and energy crashes. Dark chocolate, particularly raw, unsweetened contains high amounts of theobromine which has been linked to such health benefits as:

  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Increasing good cholesterol
  • Blocking sensory nerves during chronic or acute coughing episodes (found in some studies to be more effective than codeine)
  • Maintaining a healthy heart
  • Improves circulation by dilating blood vessels

Nutrition Pluses

In addition to the many benefits of dark chocolate there is also the nutrition aspect. According to Authority Nutrition, a 100 gram bar of 70-85% cocoa dark chocolate contains:

  • 11 grams of fiber
  • 67% of the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for Iron
  • 58% of the RDA for Magnesium
  • 89% of the RDA for Copper
  • 98% of the RDA for Manganese
  • Potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium

Before you scoff down your favorite milk chocolate candy bar take pause for a possible switch to 60% or more cacao containing dark chocolate. It may cost a little more but it’s worth the health benefits. Always talk to your doctor about consuming dark chocolate to make sure it does not contraindicate with any personal health history.