Young or old, consuming dark chocolate could improve your health in many ways, from memory protection and improved heart health to nutritional benefits. When choosing a dark chocolate bar, make sure it is at least 70 percent cocoa and has a low sugar content. Utilize cocoa powder by adding it to a fruit smoothie or protein drink, mix it in with oatmeal, or add to baked goods and pastries like pancakes, zucchini bread and scones.

Although we have known for years that dark chocolate has various health benefits, new research has given us insight into how cocoa works. The benefits are mostly due to the polyphenols and flavonoids (antioxidants) found in raw cocoa powder, which is fermented and helps maintain a healthy gut. Researchers who have studied the nutritional value of different types of processed cocoa found Dutch-processed to be least beneficial and encourage use of un-alkalized cocoa powder or cocoa nibs.

Many studies within the last 10 years have detailed various benefits of cocoa and dark chocolate.

  • A study presented at the 2014 American Chemical Society conference showed that pure, unsweetened cocoa powder created an anti-inflammatory compounds in the digestive tract by fermenting the antioxidants and fiber found in cocoa powder.
  • A 2004 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition tested the blood flow in the brachial artery between those who consumed flavonoid-rich chocolate vs. those who had a placebo. Participants who had the chocolate showed 13 percent more dilation in the artery, thus improving blood flow in the body.
  • Published in Cardiovascular System in 2014, a study tested healthy young adults with a median age of 20. The subjects were given 8 grams of 70 percent dark chocolate every day for 30 days. Upon completion of the study, researchers found the group experienced increased arterial blood flow between 14 and 23 percent.
  • In 2014 Endocrine Abstracts published a study that tested non-diabetic adults who ate 20 grams of polyphenol-rich dark chocolate for four weeks. Results showed better insulin sensitivity, concluding that dark chocolate could be a factor in helping prevent the onset of diabetes and pre diabetes.

 

Although dark chocolate could possibly help reduce chances of diabetes and heart disease, maintain a healthy, nutritious lifestyle as there are many factors in our environment and food that effect our health. As always, check with your physician for any drug interactions or contraindications. Life is too short to not give your body the foods and nutrients it needs, so get out and go buy some chocolate!