10 Amazing Benefits Of Dark Chocolate
The Cocoa Tree
All types of chocolate originate from the beans of the Theobroma cacao, also known as the cocoa tree. This is an evergreen tree that ranges from 13–26 ft tall and can only grow in rainy tropical areas, usually native to the deep tropical regions of Central and South America. The bark of the cocoa tree is extremely porous and light. The leaves can measure 9x4 inches and are dark green in color. The flowers of the cocoa tree are small and odorless. Unlike most flowers, they grow directly from the trunk of the tree or directly from the branches. When the cocoa tree is in bloom, the trunk and branches are covered with a multitude of beautiful tiny cocoa flowers.
When the Theobroma cocoa tree is not in bloom, there are numerous pods that are produced. These pods are first green, then finally dark red or purple when ripe enough to be harvested. Inside of the pod is a thick and solid pulp that contains cocoa beans. The pulp is then fermented until it liquefies enough to expose the cocoa beans for removal and to start the beginning process of creating chocolate.
The cocoa beans are then dried, cleaned, and slow roasted. Cold-pressing unroasted cocoa beans creates raw cacao, which can be consumed but it also raw. The shell of the bean is removed to produce cocoa nibs, which are then ground to create a cocoa mass. Once the cocoa mass is processed by heat into liquid form, it is then called chocolate liquor. The liquor also may be used as is or cooled and separated into two components: cocoa solids (cocoa powder) and cocoa butter. Those are the raw ingredients for other products and also the base from which all chocolate is made from.
- Dark chocolate contains cocoa mass and cocoa butter with little to no sugar.
- White chocolate contains only cocoa butter with sugar, milk solids, milk fat, and lecithin which is a fatty emulsifier.
- Milk chocolate is a combination of blending cocoa liquor with cocoa butter and adding milk powder, or condensed milk, and sugar.
What type of chocolate do you prefer?
Dark Chocolate is the Healthiest
Only this particular type of chocolate contains high amounts of flavanols and when consumed daily, they have been scientifically proven to help support a healthy body and mind by acting as antioxidants. Flavanols are a specific group of bioactive, or plant-derived, nutrients. While there is a large variety of flavanol sources, not all flavanols are created equal. Scientists have discovered that the overall amounts, as well as the specific forms and mixtures of the flavanols in each particular foods, are different. Among those particular foods listed which includes berries, dark chocolate is the most abundant in flavanols because it is the most natural and purest form of both cocoa solids and cocoa butter blended together with very little to no additives. Dark chocolate flavanols are unique because they react as vitamin B antioxidants in the body to provide many health benefits. There is no other food on Earth that can match dark chocolate’s unique blend of flavonoids and antioxidant effect. That’s why experts surprisingly refer to the cocoa bean as nature’s superfruit.
10 Amazing Benefits of Dark Chocolate
Aside from the well-known health benefits, there are some health benefits that many people are unaware of or unfamiliar with. Dark chocolate is labeled as a superfood for a reason. The list below will explore 10 amazing benefits because there are more benefits than people are aware of. New studies and research is always being conducted on this topic, which furthers the health benefits that are currently known. The most amazing benefit is that it's really healthy and eat it can be eaten every day!
1. Brain Protection From Free Radicals.
Dark chocolate does contain large quantities of flavanols with the effects of antioxidants, as we all know. But what about the fact that those types of antioxidant properties have been found to protect the brain from exercise-induced oxidative stress and premature aging? Like an apple turns brown when it is exposed to air for too long, human cells can deteriorate from exercise over time due to oxidative stress. This is caused by free radicals. A free radical is a normal by-product of the body's metabolism of oxygen. Free radicals have one missing electron within a neuronic molecule. Excessive free radicals can damage, or oxidize, other cells throughout the human body. Over time, oxidative stress can leave cells and tissue unable to function properly. These flavanols increase blood flow to the brain, promote the formation of new neurons, improve the functioning of current neurons, enhance connections between neurons, and protect neurons from death by free radicals. This can enable a brain to function more proficiently and acquire new information. The flavanols can also penetrate and accumulate in the brain regions that are associated with learning and memory functioning. They have been shown to also improve standardized cognitive test scores. The key to benefitting from the antioxidant effects is to choose either a good brand of dark chocolate or a high percentage cocoa powder and to consume it in moderate amounts regularly. Different cocoa products and different types of dark chocolate can have greatly differing amounts of flavanols depending on the manufacturing process and cocoa percentage. The more cocoa is processed, however, it retains fewer flavanols, which is why a higher percentage of cocoa powder is important.
2. Cancer Prevention.
The flavanol and antioxidant-rich effect also has cancer-preventative capabilities. The free radicals that can cause damage to the brain can also cause damage to the entire body by way of damaging the genetic material within cells, which leads to mutations that ultimately may lead to cancer. But the flavanols are able to defend against and even fix free radicals because of the antioxidant effects. A result of testing the flavanols was that it was able to deactivate certain proteins in the body, causing them to stop building new tumor cells. Flavanols found in dark chocolate also limit the growth of both cancer cells and the blood vessels that feed those cancerous cells.
3. Gut Protection.
70% of the immune system is actually located inside of the stomach. Fiber found in dark chocolate acts as a prebiotic for the tummy because it is a plant-based food. Prebiotics are fibers from plant-based foods that can’t be digested so they pass through the digestive tract to the large intestine, where probiotics consume it as a stimulant to multiply. Probiotics are found in yogurt and are live microorganisms that may be able to help prevent and treat some illnesses through the immune system from the inside of the body. In one study, 22 volunteers who consumed a high-flavanol cocoa for four weeks experienced significant increases in their amount of probiotics found in their gut. The higher the amount of probiotics improves the effectiveness and strength of the immune system from the inside out, starting with the tummy. Prebiotics also improves digestion, which includes enhancing mineral absorption. New research suggests that most of the beneficial bacteria reside toward the end of our digestive tract, which is where the fiber ferments. That new conclusion means that dark chocolate can also increase colon health concurrently.
4. It's An Aphrodisiac?
Yes, dark chocolate is. An aphrodisiac is any food or drink that stimulates the sexual senses and excitement. The Aztecs considered dark chocolate a royal aphrodisiac and the Mayans associated it with their fertility god. Experts conclude that the aphrodisiac qualities are because of to two main chemicals, tryptophan and phenylethylamine. Tryptophan is a building block of serotonin, which is a brain chemical that is linked to happiness. Phenylethylamine is a stimulant that is released in the brain when people fall in love. The effect of these two chemicals when combined is heightened and stimulated blood flow and mood. This also stimulates and excites the nervous system, which can boost energy. Eating dark chocolate creates a good and even a euphoric feeling. But the most aphrodisiac quality of dark chocolate is that's it's more about the sensual pleasure of how it gently melts in your mouth.
5. Dark Chocolate Makes You Feel Sexy.
Dark chocolate is beneficial for many different health benefits, but it can also be beneficial for the bedroom. It is more than just a type of candy and eating it can be a full-blown experience. Beyond the health benefits, dark chocolate can awaken different senses, like smell and sight, but also awaken the body, and even change the mood of a person. Indulging in it can be relaxing and calming or even a feeling of sensuousness. That can lead to passionate many other things. Ideas to try include:
- Pairing red wine with dark chocolate.
- Fresh strawberries with dark chocolate fondue.
- Drizzle dark chocolate all over the bare skin.
- Feed it while gently teasing with it.
6. Protection From Preeclampsia and Gestational Hypertension in Pregnant Women.
Pre-eclampsia is a condition that occurs only in women during pregnancy. Some symptoms of pre-eclampsia include high blood pressure with protein in the urine. This usually occurs after week 20 of pregnancy. Gestational hypertension, or also called pregnancy-induced hypertension, is high blood pressure without the presence of protein in the urine and no other symptoms of pre-eclampsia. Research reported that regular dark chocolate consumption demonstrated higher levels of theobromine in cord blood which has a protective effect against pre-eclampsia and gestational hypertension.
7. Boosts Athletic Performance.
New research has proven that by adding even a little dark chocolate daily to any training diet may improve a person's endurance performance. A study was performed recently by comparing different types of consistent chocolate snacking for cyclists. The results of that research study showed that cyclists who maintained a regular consumption of dark chocolate needed less oxygen and were able to travel a further distance traveled immediately after consumption than those who regularly consumed white chocolate. Most of this research was focused on the role of a substance called epicatechin, a plant nutrient found in cocoa solids. Dark chocolate is generally rich in epicatechin, though levels vary depending on the purity of the cocoa solids. Levels of epicatechin tend to be much lower in milk chocolate because it contains little cocoa solids. White chocolate also contains little or none of the substance. Epicatechin is known for prompting cells that line blood vessels to release extra nitric oxide, which is a substance that has multiple effects on the body. Nitric oxide slightly increases vasodilation, which is the widening of the veins and arteries. This improves blood flow and heart function to the entire body. It also uses muscles cells to take in more blood sugar, providing the muscles with more energy as it enhances the passage by increasing oxygen into cells.
8. It is Great for Teeth.
Dark chocolate is an excellent source of polyphenols, which are natural chemicals that can neutralize oral bacteria. Microorganisms in the mouth can cause bad breath and turn sugar and starches into harmful acid. The oral bacteria is called oral streptococci, which produces acid that eats away at tooth enamel. The flavanols found in dark chocolate prevent the bacteria from turning into damaging acids by acting as a type of antibacterial compound called CBH. Some dentists believe that CBH is even more effective than fluoride at protecting teeth. CBH was proven to help harden tooth enamel, making your teeth less susceptible to tooth decay. Also, the cocoa butter coats your teeth and prevents plaque from sticking to them. Antioxidants in dark chocolate have been shown to fight periodontal disease. Dark chocolate may actually help prevent diseases, cavities, and tooth decay instead of causing it all!
9. Loose Weight With It.
Dark chocolate can help aid with weight loss in a few different ways. First, as a moderate snack daily, it can help to reduce cravings and help to avoid eating such foods that are high in sugar and low in nutritional value. The best way to follow a weight loss regimen or plan is to enjoy a sweet treat once per day in a moderate size serving. Dark chocolate is the best option because it will satisfy and is healthy at the same time. Next, thanks again to flavanols, this chocolate treat has been found to help also decrease body fat in as little as 1 week's time. New studies show that eating a diet high in healthy fats, which DC contains, can rev your metabolism to burn body fat and calories. Since it reduces cravings and unhealthy food habits, it can control appetite too. DC is filling because of all the fiber it contains. One 3.5-ounce bar of 70% dark chocolate contains around 16% of your daily recommended intake. That is enough fiber so the feeling of being full lasts longer.
10. It Improves Beauty.
Dark chocolate also helps to disarm beauty’s arch enemy, stress. By reducing stress hormones, there is less collagen breakdown in the skin, resulting in fewer wrinkles. The flavanols have certain effects on the skin:
- Helps skin protect itself from UV damage for fewer wrinkles.
- Fights free radicals for reduced sun spots.
- Increases blood flow for an all-natural glow.
In one study, flavanols in dark chocolate even improved skin's hydration and thickness, which are both extremely important for young-looking skin.
More Amazing Benefits About Dark Chocolate
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© 2012 Cristale Adams