Chocolate is a universally loved treat. While most chocolate contains unhealthy amounts of sugar, dark chocolate is full of nutrients and antioxidants. In fact it has been proven to provide many health benefits
Good Nutritional Content
11 grams of fiber
Unlike most tasty foods that could be considered empty calories, dark chocolate is rich in nutritional value. Consider the list of nutrients in a 100g bar of 70-85% chocolate:
67% of the RDI for iron
58% of the RDI for magnesium
89% of the RDI for copper
98% of the RDI for manganese
It is also a good source of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.
Bear in mind though that 100g of dark chocolate also contains 600 calories and a fair amount of sugar. So it wouldn’t be a good idea to eat a bar every day but still, you can see the nutritional value.
The type of fatty acids within dark chocolate are more balanced on the healthy side. It contains more saturated and monounsaturated fats with few polyunsaturated fats.
A Powerful Source of Antioxidants
Antioxidant activity is measured in values of ORAC, or oxygen radical absorbance capacity.
Researchers determine the value by putting free radicals against different samples of food. The ability of the antioxidants within that food to disarm the free radicals will determine the ORAC. The relevance of these values are questioned by some because the experiment is done in a test tube and not inside the human body. However, raw unprocessed cocoa beans are among the highest ranked foods tested. They contain many biologically active compounds such as polyphenols, flavanols and catechins. It is these compounds that act as antioxidants. One study showed that it had more of these compounds than any other fruit tested which included blueberries and açai berries.
Reduces risk of heart disease
The antioxidants in dark chocolate can also reduce some important risk factors related to heart disease. For example when bad cholesterol (LDL) is oxidised it can cause problems in our bodies particularly in the lining of the arteries. The free radicals in chocolate reduce the oxidation and therefore reduces the risk factor.
Studies back up the theory too. In one study of elderly men, cocoa reduced the risk of death by heart disease by 50% over a 15 year period. Another study showed that eating chocolate twice or more times a week reduced calcified plaque in the arteries by 32%. And yet another study showed that eating chocolate 5 times a week lowered the risk of heart disease by 52%.
Another risk factor associated with heart disease is diabetes. Chocolate reduces insulin resistance and therefore lowers the risk of both diabetes and heart disease.
The bioactive flavanols in chocolate may also be great for our skin. They have been known to reduce skin sensitivity to UVB rays, help increase blood flow to skin and improve skin density and hydration. One study showed that after eating chocolate for 12 weeks, the skins ability to to absorb UVB rays doubled.
Considering all the evidence, chocolate has many health benefits. As mentioned before, many chocolate bars have lots of sugar and many calories so it’s not recommended that you eat a bar a day. However one or two squares after a meal can provide sufficient health benefits without loading up on the calories.