For more than 3,000 years, chocolate has been used for its healing properties. Indeed, the Maya viewed cacao - the plant that chocolate comes from - as a gift from the gods and cultivated cacao trees in sacred groves.
And, of course, everybody loves chocolate! Whether it be thousands of years ago or today. The good news is that scientists are finding scientific evidence for the healing properties of chocolate, or at least, dark chocolate. So, guilt-free pleasure that's healthy!
Like green tea and red wine, dark chocolate contains polyphenols, a powerful antioxidant that helps the body’s cells defend against free radicals from environmental toxins and diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and chronic inflammation. What’s more, dark chocolate was found to contain more phenolic antioxidants than any food, according to a study by Yale University Prevention Research Center.
Here are four health benefits:
Circulatory System: A total of three studies have found that consumption of dark chocolate helps improve blood flow, lower blood pressure, lowers LDL blood cholesterol (bad cholesterol), increases HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), improves vascular function, and reduces the risk of stroke.
Brain Cognition and Mood: In the UK, researchers confirmed that eating dark chocolate provides an acute improvement in visual and cognitive functions. Meanwhile, in Melbourne, Australia, scientists at Swinburne University revealed “significantly increased self-rated calmness and contentedness relative to placebo” in participants who consumed a dark-chocolate drink mix for 30 days.
Minerals: Dark chocolate is a mineral powerhouse. One ounce of dark chocolate - the recommended daily serving - contains the following daily recommended doses of minerals: copper (25 percent), calcium (2 percent), iron (19 percent), magnesium (16 percent), potassium (6 percent), and zinc (6 percent).
Anti-inflammatory: It has been shown that the phytochemicals in dark chocolate have anti-inflammatory properties, provided you go for chocolate with a high cocoa content and the least amount of sugar.
Sadly, there are some downsides. For instance, dark chocolate contains caffeine, which may hinder your ability to fall asleep. On top of that, dark chocolate contains a component found in many plants and animals called oxalates, which can increase the risk of kidney stones.
The point is that when it comes to dark chocolate, moderation is key. And if you go for dark chocolate that is low in sugar and high in cacao, then you will maximize the health benefits. Enjoy!