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10 Amazing Benefits Of Dark Chocolate

Updated on April 16, 2018

Where Does It All Start?

All types of chocolate start from the beans of a tree. The Theobroma cacao, also known as the cocoa tree, is an evergreen tree that ranges from 13–26 ft tall. This particular tree 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 red or purple when ripe enough to be harvested. Inside of the pod is a thick and solid pulp that contains the cocoa beans. The pulp is then fermented until it liquefies enough to expose the cocoa beans.

The Beginning of Chocolate
The Beginning of Chocolate

How Is It Made?

The cocoa beans are dried, cleaned, and roasted. Raw cacao is different than chocolate because it is made by cold-pressing unroasted cocoa beans. 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.

Different Forms of Cocoa
Different Forms of Cocoa

What type of chocolate do you prefer?

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What Makes It Healthy?

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 within the larger family of natural compounds known as flavonoids. 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 listed, 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. The amount of flavonoids is numerous, more than what is found in berries and in most other foods. 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 With Prebiotics.

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. It Is 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.

Chocolate Fondue Anyone?

© 2012 Cristale Adams

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    • profile image

      Lazar Stevic 2 years ago

      I love dark chocolates because of the health benefits. The 100% unsweetened one is the best one even the taste can be really robust. It is good for sugar aware people. But for eating anything about 70% is good. And it should be a quality one that is organic and fair trade too... I order my supplies online from Santa Barbara Chocolate- http://www.santabarbarachocolate.com/

    • renee21 profile image

      renee21 2 years ago

      I love dark chocolate! It is so yummy! Great hub! Voted up.

    • mecheshier profile image

      mecheshier 5 years ago

      Fabulous Hub. Great info and research! Chocolate is definitely a favorite of mine. Voted up for useful and interesting! Thank you for sharing

    • Cristale profile image
      Author

      Cristale Adams 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thanks for reading and for voting for this hub. I also published a hub about the benefits of coffee, so your breakfast is a great start to each day.

    • Petra Newman profile image

      Petra Newman 5 years ago

      A chocolate lover myself,I loved your hub. I start every morning with a piece of 90% dark chocolate with my coffee. I also loved your pictures.

      thanks for sharing. I voted this one up:)

    • Cristale profile image
      Author

      Cristale Adams 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thank you for reading and for voting.

    • PaoloJpm profile image

      John Paolo B.Magdaluyo 5 years ago from Philippine

      what a sweet hub! I only thought dark chocolates only increase mental capabilities in exams and yet it has more what a great news for me since I love them so much! voted up and shared

    • Cristale profile image
      Author

      Cristale Adams 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thank you so much for enjoying this hub.

    • Cristale profile image
      Author

      Cristale Adams 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thank you for reading this hub and for commenting.

    • Cristale profile image
      Author

      Cristale Adams 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thank you for reading and for voting for this chocolaty hub.

    • profile image

      cbarbar 5 years ago

      I like this hub, especially the list of chocolate's health benefits and the history and description of different types of chocolate. I love chocolate and it's nice to know that it's good for you!

    • srsddn profile image

      srsddn 5 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

      Very useful information with convincing inputs. My son likes dark chocolates but I am sure it the taste and not the benefits which attract him. I wish he understands the intrinsic value of his taste after going through this Hub.

    • KellyG05030 profile image

      Kelly 5 years ago from New England

      Great article, voted up! I know have more reasons to continue eating my favorite dark chocolate!!!

    • Cristale profile image
      Author

      Cristale Adams 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thanks for reading and keep on loving this healthy snack.

    • Rose Anne Karesh profile image

      Rose Anne Karesh 5 years ago from Virginia

      What a fun and informative article! Thanks for writing it. My family are dark chocolate lovers (even my toddler) but I confess - I think it's mostly about the taste, not the health benefits for us.

    • Cristale profile image
      Author

      Cristale Adams 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      You are welcome and thanks for reading this sweet hub.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 5 years ago from Georgia

      Mmmmmm! Now you have me reaching for the dark chocolate. Love it! I even like semi sweet chocolate.

      Thanks for providing an article with so much wonderful information about chocolate and its many benefits.

    • Cristale profile image
      Author

      Cristale Adams 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      You are very welcome and thanks for reading!

    • profile image

      benefits of chocolate 5 years ago

      This is a top blog over here. I think I’ll visit your website more if you post more of this kind of specific information. Many thanks for posting this information.

    • Cristale profile image
      Author

      Cristale Adams 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thank you for reading! Enjoy your healthy dark chocolates!

    • profile image

      tattuwurn 5 years ago

      I love dark chocolates the most because they're not too sickeningly sweet, and I'm glad that my indulgence on them may serve me well! Thanks for listing the health benefits of dark chocolates. Voted up and useful/awesome :)

    • Cristale profile image
      Author

      Cristale Adams 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thanks for reading! Every one loves chocolate of some type, but only dark chocolate is the healthiest one!

    • lemonkerdz profile image

      lemonkerdz 5 years ago from LIMA, PERU

      I never used to like dark chocolate but recently have developed a taste for it, especially since it is so versatile in adding other flavours to it. i knew it was good for you but never knew how good. thanks for the hub. shared!

    • renee21 profile image

      renee21 5 years ago

      I love dark chocolate!!

    • Cristale profile image
      Author

      Cristale Adams 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      You are welcome. It is also healthy for men, and even for children. Dark chocolate is healthy for any one who wants a healthy heart! :)

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Thank you. I love dark chocolate, and would probably eat it if it were not PARTICULARLY good for me.

      But I wish you had stated there that it was great for men too. Then I would really feel vindicated.

      Not to worry, I have just eaten one of the best barnds of dark chocolate that I know... produced for IKEA (and for me, I wouldn't be surprised to discover).

    • Cristale profile image
      Author

      Cristale Adams 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thanks. I put a lot of effort into that hub :)

    • mecheshier profile image

      mecheshier 5 years ago

      Oh what a great Hub. For I do love chocolate. I have always felt that there must be something wrong with those you do not like this precious food. You have some fantastic info here. Thank you for sharing. Voted up for awesome.

    • Cristale profile image
      Author

      Cristale Adams 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      You are welcome dobo! Keep in mind for when the holidays come too!

    • dobo700 profile image

      dobo700 5 years ago from Australia

      Thanks Cristale, dark chocolate is my favourite

    • Cristale profile image
      Author

      Cristale Adams 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      You are welcome. Enjoy!

    • brenda12lynette profile image

      brenda12lynette 6 years ago from Utah

      I love chocolate so it's great to know it has some health benefits. Thanks for the info!

    • Cristale profile image
      Author

      Cristale Adams 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thank you, Josh. I was going for that. Margarita...you are welcome.

    • MargaritaEden profile image

      MargaritaEden 6 years ago from Oregon

      Great information! I love chocolate, thanks for the positive key points on chocolate!

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Great article, like Julie you hooked me, and I am a guy! :

      Voted up!

    • Cristale profile image
      Author

      Cristale Adams 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thanks Julie. Enjoy dark chocolate and feel great!

    • Julie DeNeen profile image

      Blurter of Indiscretions 6 years ago from Clinton CT

      Okay, you hooked me with that great picture of the woman eating chocolate. Voted up!

    • Cristale profile image
      Author

      Cristale Adams 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thank you for your comment, Peter. Have a great day!

    • profile image

      Peter Langelaar 6 years ago

      Yes Dr Steven Warren is the expert on chocolate.

      like to know more about him see his reputation (CV) here http://healthychoc.ws/index.php/dr-steven-warren-m... like to learn more also check out the site of Jean Kelsey her blog that's a nice source of information http://gourmethealthychocolates.com

      Like to stay informed check out my www.facebook.com/xocolatlvita

      Have a nice day

      Peter

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