There are many dreams that’d make life wonderful if they came true. The weekend is three days long. The sun is going to shine every day during the British summer. Ryan Gosling is going to break up with Eva Mendes and come knocking on my door. Chocolate is actually really healthy. The list goes on…
But hang on. What was that last one? Chocolate is really good for you? Well, it turns out that’s one dream that might just come true. Dark chocolate has a great number of health benefits, so here’s why you shouldn’t feel guilty about having a helping – or four – every week…
Here comes the dark chocolate science bit
The health benefits of dark chocolate come from the high levels of flavanols present in cocoa. Flavanols are a type of flavonoid; flavonoids are a group of phytochemicals that have great antioxidant benefits. The strong, bitter taste of the cocoa bean is gradually lessened when cocoa goes through the process of being made into chocolate products. Ideally, we should be eating chocolate with a minimum of 70% cocoa and there is a much higher, more concentrated level of cocoa in darker chocolate, which explains the sharp taste and why it has significantly more health benefits than milk and white varieties.
Dark chocolate is stuffed full of antioxidants, which help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and fight diabetes. Antioxidants also help to rid the body of free radicals, which can cause many types of cancer and speed up the ageing process. That’s right, chocolate can keep you looking young! It also contains many vitamins and minerals in high concentrations, including potassium, magnesium and iron. These help protect the body against anaemia and heart conditions. What’s more, the theobromine in dark chocolate hardens the enamel on our teeth and protects against fillings.
Dark chocolate is good for your heart
We all know that eating chocolate can help to cure a broken heart but it’s got real cardiovascular health benefits too. Studies have shown that eating dark chocolate in moderation can reduce the risk of heart failure, heart attack and stroke by up to a third. The flavonoids (those guys again) help to prevent the formation of blood clots and increase the flexibility of our veins and arteries – improving blood flow and increasing the benefits that we reap from cardio exercise.
Dark chocolate also makes us more intelligent (sort of!)
Dark chocolate increases blood flow to the brain and improves the quality of our cognitive functions. It’s also a great stress buster as it contains the same chemical (phenylethylamine) that our body releases when we fall in love. Research has also shown that the flavanols boost blood flow to the brain, proving that dark chocolate really can give you a boost and help to improve performance and brain function in both the short- and long-term.
So next time you go for a chocolate-based snack, just remember two things. The darker, the better… and life is sweet!