Shockingly, chocolate has been proven to carry a multitude of fantastic health benefits, however, this doesn’t mean we can run off and fill our shopping carts to the brim with chocolates, but it does mean that we can treat ourselves to a cheeky chocolate bar every now and then without feeling too guilty.
Dark chocolate is jam-packed full of nutrition! The higher the cocoa content, the higher the levels of soluble fibre and minerals. In 100 grams of 70-80% dark chocolate, you will find fibre, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium. But like I said, don’t take this as a green light to gorge on a full block of dark chocolate, because 100 grams of choccie will also set you back about 600 calories.
Healthy fatty acids
When most people hear the word fatty, they run a mile! But there’s absolutely no need to panic, because some fatty acids can be hugely beneficial to our health. Dark chocolate and cocoa contain plenty of these healthy fatty acids and trace amounts of saturated fats, polysaturated fat and monounsaturated fats (healthy fats also found in olive oil).
Monounsaturated fats are great to help lower cholesterol, which as a result, lowers your chances of suffering a stroke or heart disease. As well as having healthy amount of monosaturated fats, cocoa also contains a small amount of caffeine to give you that little energy kick you might need to jump on the treadmill.
I think it’s safe to say, most of us know that antioxidants are good for us, but many of us don’t know why. Antioxidants essentially protect our cells from damage inflicted by free radicals, which can be the cause of diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
These free radicals can be caused by tobacco smoke or the break-down of food, but luckily, antioxidants work to prevent this. The antioxidants found in dark chocolate will help to neutralise these free radicals, which can help to prevent damage to body tissue and cells.
Improved cognitive function
Some studies have proven that chocolate can, in fact, improve our overall cognitive function. According to research done by scientists at Harvard Medical School, chocolate can help with cognitive function by increasing the blood flow to certain areas of the brain. The published experiment showed that a cacao extract called Lavado, could help to decrease the damage done to the nerve pathways in Alzheimer’s patients.
Chocolate can be good for your workout
I know, shocking right? According to a 2017 research report, dark chocolate can improve your VO2 max, meaning it will boost your oxygen availability. This is believed to be caused by the epicatechin (flavanol), which helps with the healthy functioning of your mitochondria. In other words, your body learns to use oxygen more efficiently which assists with exercise endurance.
This aside, the sugar and small amounts of caffeine present in dark chocolate will help to give you the energy resources you need to complete your exercise routine without dramatic burnout.
It’s good for the soul
Everyone knows that chocolate makes you happy, but did you know there’s actually a scientific reason for this? Dark chocolate helps to boost your mood and supress depressive symptoms due to the high levels of serotonin in cacao. Serotonin is the hormone that helps to regulate our mood; it is responsible for our feelings of happiness, our sleeping and our digestion.
So, next time someone tries to chastise you for snacking on dark chocolate, you can now inform them of the multitude of benefits associated with cacao. Just remember, our favourite foods are only good in moderation!