- Food and Cooking
Dark Chocolate Nutrition
Dark Chocolate Health Benefits
The benefits of dark chocolate are many. We have all been told to avoid sweets because they are not good for you. Well, here is one sweet you can indulge in!
Word of warning: It is high in calories so and overindulging in anything is not recommended even with healthy foods. Always remember that balance and moderation is key so limit your intake of this treat to reap the benefits.
It is recommended that eating a small dark chocolate bar daily can be quite good for you so limit yourself to no more than this. Why is dark chocolate beneficial to your health? There are many reasons.
It is a powerful antioxidant; it is low on the glycemic index and it protects the heart from disease. It can also act as a brain booster! These are great reasons to add dark chocolate to your diet.
Milk chocolate does not have same health benefits because it contains a lower concentration of cacao. Cacao is the superstar here and dark chocolate contains lots of it!
Check the label - you should be consuming dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao to realize the benefits.
How does dark chocolate do all these great things? Read on and find out......
Why is Dark Chocolate Healthy?
Dark chocolate good for you because It is chock full of antioxidants. Antioxidants protect your healthy cells from the detrimental effects of free radicals.
Free radicals are unstable molecules in your body that are primarily responsible for aging; tissue damage and some diseases. These molecules bond with healthy cells and damage them and as you age your natural protection diminishes.
Therefore getting more antioxidants through your diet is important. The cocoa contained in dark chocolate contains more antioxidants than healthy foods such as blueberries and green tea!
Low Glycemic Food
Dark chocolate is rich in "flavanols" which are the antioxidants described above. But flavanols also play a greater role than just fighting off free radicals. They also help to restore the cells ability to allow sugar to enter the cells from the bloodstream so it can be used for energy.
Dark chocolate has an glycemic index rating of only 23. This is very low. Low glycemic foods with an index of 55 or less when consumed keep the blood sugar levels steady. This is important to avoid developing diabetes and to keep your weight steady as well as increase your energy levels.
The consumption of dark chocolate has been shown to reduce the inflammation that is associated with the development of heart disease and the reduction is significant!
Chronic Inflammation has a strong connection to the development of heart disease so the ability to reduce this inflammation is a great health benefit. C-reactive protein levels in blood cause this inflammation and studies shows that people who eat dark chocolate regularly have much lower levels of this protein in their bloodstream.
The recommendation is a one small chocolate bar per day (about 6.7 grams or 0.23 ounces), no more than that is recommended. One caution, dark chocolate is a high fat food, some of this fat is saturated but as long as it is eaten in moderation, the healthy benefits are not lost. It is still worth adding dark chocolate to your diet.
Dark chocolate has been shown to have an effect on the brain and in a good way. It doesn't put you into a chocolate induced haze actually quite the opposite!
Researchers have found that consumption of dark chocolate significantly increases blood flow to the brain. The increase of blood flow is thought to increase alertness and memory for at least a few hours.
It appears that a dark chocolate bar is a good treat to consume when you need to concentrate for a few hours perhaps during an exam or working on a project at work. This research has implications for perhaps treating vascular related disorders such as stroke and dementia. Flavanols are again the ingredient that is responsible for these benefits and dark chocolate is rich in flavanols.
Healthiest Dark Chocolate
Lindt brand dark chocolate is a favourite of mine. One of the things I like best about it is how easy it is to break off into smaller pieces. The bar is made up of small squares, and breaking off a couple is the perfect little treat to satisfy your chocolate craving. It has a good chocolate taste without bitterness. Try it yourself you won't be disappointed. I like the 70 % cocoa variety but it does come in 85% and 90%. Remember the higher the percentage of cocoa the healthier it is.
But what about the taste of Dark Chocolate?
Dark chocolate is not as creamy or sweet as milk chocolate. But milk chocolate shares none of the healthy benefits. Dark chocolate can be an acquired taste but if you allow the chocolate to melt slowly in your mouth the creamier chocolate flavors are unleashed.
Dark chocolate should always be enjoyed at room temperature - a cold bar becomes brittle and unappealing.
Dark chocolate bars should contain at least 70 percent cocoa to be considered a healthy treat. Anything less than this will not achieve the same health benefits. More and more chocolate companies such as Hershey are now producing dark chocolate bars that are readily available at the local supermarket. Makes sense to pick up that dark chocolate bar instead of the sugary milk chocolate version!
Dark Chocolate Recipes
Hot Chocolate Drink
4 cups soy milk or almond milk
3/4 cup dark chocolate, chopped coarsely
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon coarse sea salt (to taste)
1. Using a small saucepan, combine ingredients
2. Using a whisk stir over medium low heat until the chocolate has melted and mixture is steaming hot.
3. Ready in about 5 minutes