Dark Chocolate and Its Health Benefits
Dark chocolate is usually prepared by using Theobroma cacao seeds which are roasted and afterwards grounded. From cocoa, you get chocolate. It is mixed with fat and sugar that is powdered to produce a solid like confection. You can eat the dark chocolate as it is or use it in cooking. Nutrients that affects positively your health are loaded in dark chocolates .It is a source of antioxidants and helps in improving health life and lowering the risk of heart diseases.
Dark chocolates have become popular worldwide and several foods containing chocolate have been created such as pudding, cakes, brownies and chocolate chip cookies. U.S Food And Drug Administration refers to dark chocolate as sweet chocolate and contains 15% concentration of the chocolate liquor though the European rule specifies it to contain 35% cocoa solids. Other types of dark chocolate are semi-sweet chocolate that contain low sugar content. In bittersweet chocolate, ingredients such as sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla and lecithin are added. It contains more liquor and has less sugar compared to semi-sweet chocolate though the two can be interchangeable during the baking process.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF DARK CHOCOLATE
- IT CONTAINS MANY NUTRIENTS
Quality dark chocolate with high cocoa content is very nutritious. It is loaded with soluble fiber and minerals.
A bar of chocolate that weighs 100 gram with 70-85% cocoa contains
- 11 g of fiber
- 58% of RDA for magnesium
- 67% of RDA for iron
- 89% of RDA for copper
- 98% of RDA for manganese
- It also contains lots of potassium, zinc, selenium and potassium.
100 grams chocolate is equivalent to (3.5 ounces) which is quite large and should not be consumed daily. It also contains 600 calories and some amount of sugar. Because of these reasons, moderation should be used during consumption of dark chocolate. Amount of fatty acids in cocoa and dark chocolate are good. Fats are mostly saturated and monounsaturated with little amounts of polyunsaturated. Dark chocolate also contains caffeine and Theobromine which are stimulants. These amounts of caffeine is little compared to that in coffee thus less likely to keep you awake at night.
- IT IS A SOURCE OF ANTIOXIDANTS
Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity(ORAC) is the measure of antioxidant activities in the food. Usually researchers put free radicals (bad ones), against sample food to test how antioxidants in the food can disarm them. Organic compounds which are biologically active are loaded in dark chocolate. They include flavanols, catechins, polyphenols and they work as antioxidants. In a study that was carried out showed that dark chocolate and cocoa has more polyphenols, antioxidant activity and flavanols compared to other fruits like blueberries and acai berries.
- DARK CHOCOLATE IMPROVES BLOOD FLOW AND LOWERS BLOOD PRESSURE
Stimulation of the endothelium (lining of arteries) to produce nitric acid gas can be enabled by flavanols in dark chocolate. Nitric acid gas helps in sending signals to the arteries to relax which lowers resistance to blood flow and thus reducing blood pressure.
- DARK CHOCOLATE HELPS IN RAISING HDL AND PROTECTS LDL AGAINST OXIDATION.
Dark chocolate improves risk factors for heart diseases. In a study that was carried, it was found out that in men, cocoa powder can decrease oxidized LDL cholesterol. It caused an increment of HDL and lowered LDL in men with elevated cholesterol. When the LDL has been oxidized, it means that free radicals has reacted with the LDL (bad cholesterol). Due to this reason, LDL particle is reactive and it is capable of causing damage to the other tissues for example lining of arteries in the heart. Large amount of antioxidants in cocoa makes it easy to flow in the bloodstream and cause protection to lipoproteins against oxidative damage. This proves that cocoa lowers oxidized LDL. Insulin resistance can also be reduced by dark chocolate which is one of the common factor for diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
- DARK CHOCOLATE HELPS IN LOWERING THE RISK OF GETTING CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE
Dark chocolate contains compounds that offers protection against oxidation of LDL.long term effects of this is to lower cholesterol lodging in the arteries and this results to reduced risks of heart diseases. In a study that was carried out in 470 elderly men showed that there was a reduced risks of cardiovascular death by 50% for over 15 year. In another study, it showed that consuming chocolate twice or more times a week can help lower risks of getting calcified plaque in the arteries by 32%. Also it was concluded that having chocolate five times per week lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease by 57%.
- DARK CHOCOLATES PROTECTS THE SKIN AGAINST THE SUN.
Improved blood flow to the skin, increased skin density and hydration to the skin is facilitated by flavanols in chocolate which helps in protecting the skin against damage. Minimum amount of UVB rays that can cause redness in the skin after 24 hour exposure is called Minimal Erythemal Dose (MED). In a study that was carried out concluded that MED doubled more after the consumption of dark chocolate for 12 weeks which is rich in flavanols. If you have plans to go to the beach for vacation, load your body with dark chocolate weeks or months before.
- DARK CHOCOLATE HELPS IN IMPROVING BRAIN FUNCTION
It helps in improving the function of the brain. A study that was done showed that when you consume high flavanol cocoa in 5 days, it can help improve the blood flow to the brain. Cocoa also helps in improving cognitive function in the elderly people who have got mental impairment. It helps in improving their verbal fluency and some risk factors for diseases. Cocoa also helps in improving the brain in short term because it has stimulant like caffeine and Theobromine.
- DARK CHOCOLATE CAN HELP IN LOSING WEIGHT PROCESS
Will Clower, who is a neuroscientist says consuming a small piece of chocolate 20 minutes before a meal helps in triggering the hormone that says “I AM FULL” in the brain. This causes a reduction in the amount of food taken .When you finish a meal with the same trigger, it can help in snacking less.
OTHER BENEFITS INCLUDE:
- DARK CHOCOLATE IS GOOD FOR MOTHERS AND BABIES
A study that was carried out showed that chocolate caused a reduction of stress in expectant mothers. Babies of chocolate consuming mothers tend to smile more than the non-chocolate eating mothers.
- IT CAN HELP YOU FEEL BETTER
Chocolate has got phenylethylamine (PEA) which is similar chemical that is created in the brain when one feels like falling in love. PEA helps in stimulating the brain to release feel good endorphins.
- DARK CHOCOLATES CAN HELP IN IMPROVING EYESIGHT
According to study that was carried out showed that people who consumed 720 mg of cocoa flavanols had better visual performances such as the ability to detect motion and read low contrast letters. This is enhanced by increased flow of blood to the retina and the brain.
NUTRITIONAL FACTS ABOUT DARK CHOCOLATE
There are many benefits that comes with cocoa beans when they are mixed with cocoa butter and sugar to form chocolate bar.
- Dark chocolate Macronutrients
It provides lots of energy which is about 170 calories per ounce. Depending on the amount of the sweetener and fat used to make the chocolate, you will get different amount of sugar and fats. According to USDA, I ounce of chocolate has 12 grams of fats, 7 grams of saturated fat and 24 grams of sugar. It is recommended to eat chocolate in moderation. More so to the people trying to lose weight or have diabetes.
- It provides minerals.
Minerals such as magnesium, copper, manganese and iron are found in dark chocolate.
According to the office of the dietary supplements, women who are below 50 years requires about 18 milligrams of iron daily whereas men and women above 50 years require 8 milligrams per day.
- Copper: it is of help because it collaborates with iron to form healthy red blood cells. It also contributes to the proper functioning of the nerves and the immune systems.
- Manganese: It is needed during the formation of bones, blood clotting factors, regulating calcium absorption, maintain normal nerve and brain function, regulating blood sugar, metabolizing nutrients, forming blood clotting hormones and connective tissues.It is a mineral which helps the body use other nutrients such as thiamin and biotin thus very important in health life.
- Iron:Iron is of great importance in hemoglobin formation which carries the blood throughout the body and gives blood its dark colour. It also helps in carrying oxygen to every body cell, helps in muscle functions, to fight anemia and cure its symptoms such as fatigue, headaches and weaknesses.
- Magnesium: It has a role to play in 300 different chemical reactions in the body. It helps in maintaining healthy bones. It also helps in preventing cardiovascular diseases and it improves bone mineral density. Antioxidants helps in fighting free radicals that can damage molecules in cells which can lead to aging and diseases such as cancer
- Antioxidants are present in the black chocolate
Polyphenols is one type of antioxidant present in dark chocolates. Damages that happens in the body caused by oxidative stress and free radicals can be prevented by antioxidants. Risks of contracting chronic diseases such as cancer and heart diseases can be reduced by consuming polyphenols. Improvement of the overall immune function in the body can be prevented by the antioxidant found in chocolates.
- Caffeine and Theobromine
These compounds stimulates the central nervous system that helps temporarily to reduce fatigue. These two stimulant may help in relaxation of certain smooth muscles like for example those found in the throat and lungs. They help in relieving cough and opening the restricted airways. However if they are consumed in large amounts, they may cause nausea, headaches or insomnia.
Storage temperatures should be between 15 and 17 degrees Celsius with less humidity of less than 50%. Blooming effects can occur if chocolates are stored improperly.
Chocolate should be stored away from other foods; as they can absorb different aromas. They should be wrapped properly and stored in the correct temperature and humidity.
Chocolate can absorb moisture if it is refrigerated without containment that causes whitish discoloration. That is the result of sugar and fat rising up to the surface. When you move chocolate from one temperature condition to another; for example from very cold to very hot conditions, it can cause an oily texture. Thus dark chocolates should be stored properly.