chocolate

 

Chocolate occupies a treasured spot on our list of favorite treats. In cultures around the world, chocolate is considered exactly that: an indulgence, but not something actually good for you. It’s why restaurants have “sinful” chocolate desserts. You might be surprised to learn, though, that chocolate can be part of a healthy diet. With numerous health benefits, moderate amounts of chocolate, especially dark varieties, are more than just sweet.

Chocolate, like coffee, is derived from the beans of a plant, the cocoa plant. And just as coffee has a surprising amount of healthy aspects, chocolate can also do a lot of good.

A few words about chocolate

With so many different types of chocolate, it can be difficult to make sweeping generalizations. However, the type of chocolate most helpful to you is dark chocolate. Chocolate contains polyphenols, a plant compound and a great way to improve your heart health. Because it is the least processed form of chocolate, dark chocolate has the most (behind only pure cocoa powder).

Low-quality chocolate, which is unfortunately what is most commonly on sale in North America, does not provide the benefits of dark. Milk chocolate, for example, contains a lot of added sugars. The higher the percentage of cocoa used in the chocolate the better.

Polyphenols

The primary cause for health in dark chocolate has long been thought to be its level of polyphenols based the antioxidant effects they have in the body. Antioxidants are an important way for your body to maintain Insulin Efficiency, lower blood pressure and contribute to a reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes.

By eating a moderate amount of dark chocolate as part of your diet, you keep polyphenols in your blood, helping to keep everything running smoothly.

Chocolate and your gut flora

Recent research into the benefits of chocolate has uncovered a new benefit beyond the antioxidant effects of polyphenols. Some researchers felt that the overall benefits of dark chocolate were not sufficiently explained by its behavior in the cardiovascular system. Their work was presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society.

Gut flora, the bacteria living within our digestive system, are able to feed and breakdown parts of cocoa that our stomachs cannot. This allows our bodies to better absorb the polyphenols and even converts other molecules into anti-inflammatory agents for the body. Also, the dietary fiber present in dark chocolate helps maintain higher levels of the beneficial microbiota in our gut. It’s a win-win.

The downside of chocolate

While dark chocolate is certainly a great means of improving numerous aspects of your health, it’s still important to moderate your intake. Most studies find improvements in health with a daily intake of about 6 to 8 grams. That’s only about one small square, and a lot less than you might find in a restaurant’s chocolate desserts which also have large amounts of added sugar.

Also, dark chocolate and pure cocoa powder are your healthiest options. The less processed the chocolate, the better it will be.

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