Superfoods are a hot topic in the health and wellness world. So what’s all the fuss about? What makes a food a superfood?
A superfood is essentially a food that is extremely good for you. They’re packed with vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and active plant compounds such as antioxidants.
Among the fruits and vegetables commonly called superfoods, you’ll find a couple of more surprising foods. One of those is chocolate! As decadent and delicious as chocolate is, science has found that it contains plenty of compounds with real health benefits.
If you’re looking to get the maximum health benefits from a moment of chocolate indulgence, you need to go for high quality dark chocolate. Milk chocolate contains more sugar and less of the natural cocoa where the plant nutrients originate.
What can chocolate do for your health? Let’s check out some of the health benefits associated with dark chocolate.
1. Chocolate Contains Lots of Healthy Minerals
There is plenty of copper, magnesium, manganese, and iron to be found in dark chocolate. These minerals are crucial for your body to function at its best. Your nerves, immunity, circulation, and bones are just some of the vital systems supported by minerals.
2. Dark Chocolate has Powerful Antioxidants
Antioxidants are compounds that protect your body from damaging free radicals. We are exposed to free radicals on a daily basis in the form of environmental pollutants, pharmaceuticals and natural processes in the body.
Dark chocolate contains flavonoids and flavonols, both of which are powerful types of plant antioxidants. I’m not saying that chocolate counts as one of your recommended 5 a day but it does comes from the cocoa plant which has many compounds in common with fruits and veg.
Unfortunately the milk used to make milk chocolate hinders the absorption of the antioxidants. You need to choose chocolate made with lightly processed or even raw cocoa. It’s more expensive but your body will thank you.
3. It May Help Lower Blood Pressure
Studies have shown that dark chocolate can lower your blood pressure. High blood pressure (hypertension) when untreated will lead to heart attacks, stroke and many other health issues.
Plant chemicals called phenols in dark chocolate are thought to be responsible for this health effect. Phenols are found in higher concentrations in dark chocolate, and European chocolate tends to contain more phenols than chocolate processed in United States.
4. Chocolate May Help With Coughs
Theobromine is a compound known for its benefits in treating coughs. It actually inhibits the nerve action that creates the urge to cough. It’s even being used in the development of a new cough suppressant that may replace narcotic cough medicines like codeine.
Theobromine is found in significant quantity in chocolate, more so in dark chocolate. Though the connection between chocolate and cough treatment hasn’t been studied directly, a square of high quality dark chocolate surely won’t hurt!
5. Dark Chocolate May Help Ward Off Diabetes
Studies have found that dark chocolate seems to increase insulin sensitivity, at least short term. This may help to prevent type 2 diabetes, or control blood sugar in those already affected.
Of course, sugar can be harmful for diabetics or people at risk for diabetes. For this reason, moderation is very important. Plenty of manufacturers produce chocolate with low or no sugar content which is more suitable for diabetics.
6. Cocoa Improves Brain Health
Studies have shown that dark chocolate helps increase blood flow to your brain. This helps your brain to function properly and may help prevent or treat brain diseases like dementia.
In fact, studies have also shown that the flavanols in cocoa improve memory and cognitive function in people with mild cognitive impairment.
Chocolate Can Have Incredible Benefits
Despite the potential health benefits of chocolate, it’s important to remember that it is still a food best eaten in moderation. Most organizations that applaud chocolate for its health benefits also recommend a small amount.
All said, high quality dark chocolate that has been minimally processed can have positive effects on your health and wellbeing. This is great news for chocoholics everywhere!