Are you are currently counting calories, dieting to lose weight or trying to obtain good health? If so, eliminating unhealthy foods such as candy, refined carbohydrates, fried food and junk food can help you to achieve these goals. If you are like most, the thought of giving up so many of your favourite comfort foods is quite daunting; luckily, you can take console in the fact that chocolate does not have to be one of them. In fact, dark chocolate is an incredibly healthy food, and below are 7 reasons why you can feel good about indulging more often in this delicious treat.
1: It Improves Your Mood
The cocoa in dark chocolate helps to boost the levels of the neurotransmitters: serotonin, dopamine and tryptophan in your brain. This is beneficial because these neurotransmitters work as antidepressants and help to promote feelings of wellbeing, happiness and good mental health. Dark chocolate also boosts endorphin levels in your body, which act like opiates and produce a “natural high.”
2: It is Rich in Antioxidants
Dark chocolate contains the polyphenols: epicatechins and procyaidins—both of which act as powerful antioxidants in your body. These antioxidants contribute to good health by scavenging free radicals and preventing them from damaging your cells and DNA. In addition, the antioxidants in dark chocolate can help to fight cancer and heart disease, states Science Daily.
3: It Encourages Healthy Cholesterol Levels
Studies on dark chocolate have found that the high polyphenol content of dark chocolate helps to increase the “healthy” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels in your body. Dark chocolate also helps to lower the “unhealthy” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels in your body and thereby improves the HDL/LDL ratio. This is beneficial because a healthy HDL/LDL cholesterol ratio is indicative of good health and it drastically reduces your risk for developing cardiovascular disorders.
4: It Can Help You Lose Weight
Chocolate has a bad rep for being ‘fattening’ and many individuals who are calories counting and/or trying to lose weight, avoid it for this reason. However, it is the sugar, nuts and many other ingredients that are added to most chocolate bars that contribute to weight gain, and not the chocolate itself.
Dark chocolate can help you to lose weight because it is very rich, so just a small amount can help to satisfy your cravings and prevent you from overindulging in other sweets. Also, many people eat to suppress negative emotions such as sadness or depression, and as mentioned above, dark chocolate works as a natural mood booster, so when you eat it, it will diminish your desire to gorge on comfort foods.
5: It Increases Energy
Many people lack energy and rely heavily on stimulants to get them through the day. If you are currently trying to lose weight and vehemently counting calories, you are likely to fall into this category, because restrictive dieting can be exhausting. Fortunately, dark chocolate can give you an energy boost without the anxiety and jitters associated with stronger stimulants such as coffee.
According to a study conducted at the University of Nottingham, dark chocolate helps to increase energy levels by boosting blood flow to the brain and body, and the increased blood flow can last up to three hours. In addition, chocolate contains a small amount of caffeine – enough to give you a boost, but not enough to cause the subsequent crash associated with highly caffeinated beverages. Finally, dark chocolate contains theobromine which helps to provide a relaxed feeling whilst simultaneously fighting mental and physical fatigue.
7: It Promotes Good Health
Dark chocolate is packed full of nutrients that promote good health. It is a good source of calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron. It also helps to stabilize blood sugar levels and decrease appetite, making it especially beneficial if you’re trying to lose weight. In addition, studies have found that dark chocolate reduces inflammation, increases blood flow to the heart and arteries, reduces blood clot risk, increases cognitive performance in the elderly and may even lower blood pressure.
How to Obtain These Benefits
To obtain all of the health benefits that dark chocolate has to offer, the University of Michigan Health System, recommends choosing a product that contains at least 60% cocoa and is made from organic or free trade cocoa beans. Also, look for a product that is made without hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. Finally, if you are calorie counting or trying to lose weight, choose a chocolate bar with a low sugar content, or one that is made with a low-calorie sugar alternative such as stevia.