Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Kayla Slater, Columnist
As Valentine’s Day approaches, candy hearts, sweets and lots of chocolate may surround you. Fortunately, dark chocolate has been shown to offer many health benefits, so you can still have a sweet treat this Valentine’s Day. Chocolate is made from cocoa beans which contain plant phenols that are beneficial to your health. Also dark chocolate has less added fat and sugar. Here are eight health benefits of eating dark chocolate:

Heart Health
Dark chocolate is good for your heart because of the flavonoids, a plant phenol in the cocoa beans. The flavonoids help to lower cholesterol, increase HDL (“good” cholesterol), and protect against LDL (“bad” cholesterol). According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and the University of Michigan, dark chocolate is beneficial to your heart. It may even lower high blood pressure and increase blood flow in the heart. Therefore, it decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Antioxidant Benefits
Cocoa contains antioxidants that destroy free radicals in the body that lead to oxidation of LDL. Fatty streaks form in the heart due to the oxidation of LDL which causes heart disease. But you may counteract the benefits of the antioxidants in chocolate if you drink milk too.

Lowers the risk of Diabetes
Family history, lifestyle, and obesity increase the risk of diabetes. Dark chocolate may also reduce the risk of developing diabetes. In an article from The Journal of Nutrition, dark chocolate intake was associated with changes in insulin sensitivity.

Protection for Skin
The Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology reported that chocolate rich in flavonoids can protect human skin from harmful UV rays. Flavonoids in cocoa increase nutrient and oxygen delivery to skin, providing a protective effect against the sun.

Brain Function
Flavonoids increase blood flow to the brain to improve brain function. According to the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology, regular intake of dark chocolate contributed to better cognition in the elderly.

Improves Mood
The University of Michigan found that the phytochemicals in cocoa beans boost serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain. These hormones are associated with influencing mood.

Increase in satiety and fullness
Dark chocolate may lead to early satiety and a feeling of fullness. This may help you eat less. An article in Regular Peptides claims that you may feel full faster because of changes in ghrelin, a hormone that is released in the stomach.

Contains minerals
Cocoa contains the trace minerals: calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which are needed for necessary biological functions. Calcium and magnesium aid in bone health and potassium is associated with electrolyte and pH balance.

But remember, even though dark chocolate has many health benefits, eating chocolate in moderation is recommended. This Valentine’s Day, choose darker!

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