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Indulge yourself in the goodness of dark chocolate. This amazing food can provide you with countless health benefits, while leaving a sweet taste in your mouth.
The origin of chocolate dates back to 1500 BC. The cocoa beans were used in Aztec and Mayan civilizations. Christopher Columbus brought these cocoa beans to Spain and later they spread all over Europe while the first chocolate bar was introduced in 1874.
Chocolates are produced from the seeds of Theobroma cacao, commonly known as cacao tree. The tree is native to tropical rain forests of South America and holds significant importance for its beans or seeds that are used for cocoa powder, and cocoa butter. The cocoa beans are then crushed and grounded to get cocoa liquor. Then this cocoa liquor is processed further by mixing sugar and fat and finally you get your favorite chocolate.
There are different types of chocolate available, the taste of chocolate depends on the proportion of cocoa and other ingredients that are used in its mixture. The three main varieties of chocolate are milk chocolate, white chocolate and dark chocolate. Out of these three varieties dark chocolate has the highest amount of antioxidants which makes it the most beneficial variety for your health.
The healthy nutrients you can get from dark chocolate are Potassium, Copper, Magnesium and Iron. You also get flavonoids from chocolate, an important antioxidant for preventing many diseases. In fact, it has 5 times more flavonoids than an apple. These nutrients serve your body with the following health benefits:
Promote Heart Health
A research was conducted in Sweden, over a time period of 9 years to find about the heart promoting benefits of chocolate. In this study more than 31,000 women participated, who consumed one to two servings of dark chocolate per week. A reduced risk of heart failure was observed in these participants.
Another research conducted in Germany proved that consuming a square of dark chocolate everyday can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke up to 39%. Thanks to the flavonoids that help with the flexibility of arteries and veins.
It also promotes good circulation because of its blood thinning and anti-clotting properties.
Control Blood Sugar
Good news for diabetics! Dark chocolate ranks low on Glycemic index, which means it won’t spike your sugar levels. The flavonoids present in dark chocolate reduce insulin resistance and helps your body to efficiently use the insulin. Claudio Ferri, M.D., a professor at the University of L’Aquila in Italy says, “Flavonoids increase nitric oxide production, and that helps control insulin sensitivity.”
Did you know that dark chocolate can actually help you to lose weight? A research conducted at the University of Copenhagen, revealed that dark chocolate gives you a more filling effect and lessens your cravings for fatty, sweet and salty foods. So if you incorporate a little portion to your diet you can get optimum health benefits without a weight gain. A cup of hot chocolate is also beneficial for reducing appetite.
A Finnish study revealed that babies born to mothers, who consumed dark chocolates during their pregnancies, were happier and they smiled a lot. So, it is better to use chocolate during pregnancy rather than giving pacifiers to your crying babies after birth. It also relieves stress in mothers-to-be.
Good Mood Food!
An important chemical called phenylethylamine or PEA is present in chocolates, it is the same chemical that the brain creates when you experience the feeling of love. Phenylethylamine also encourages the release of endorphins by your brain, a chemical essential for putting you in a good mood.
Dark chocolates can also relieve stress by reducing the level of stress hormones. It contains serotonin, which acts as a natural anti-depressant.
Dark chocolates contain high levels of flavanols. A research conducted in London proved that flavanols found in chocolates can provide protection against harmful effects of the sun.
Boosts Brain Powers
Researchers at the Oxford University studied long term effects of chocolate consumption on human brain. 2000 participants were included in the study, with age above 70. It was concluded that participants consuming chocolates high in flavanol contents scored high on cognitive tests.
Another study conducted by the researchers at the University of Nottingham, found that drinking flavanol rich cocoa can regulate the flow of blood to the key parts of the brain, as a result its performance is improved.
Provides Cough Relief
Dark chocolates contain theobromine, a chemical that is effective for treating cough. It is as effective as codeine, but unlike codeine it does not cause dullness and tastes far better than it. Maria Belviai, a professor at the National Heart and Lung Institute, in London, says about chocolate that, “It had none of the negative side effects.”
The use of cocoa for treating diarrhea can be traced back to the 16th Century in European and South American cultures. Researchers at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute found that the flavonoids present in the cocoa help to bind the protein, responsible for regulating fluid secretion in the intestine, this results in a relief from diarrhea.
Dark chocolate is considered among “one of the best cancer-fighting foods” along with other foods like garlic, blueberries, red wine and green tea. Chocolate works in two ways to fight against cancer. It inhibits the cancer cell division and also reduces inflammation.
While choosing chocolate make sure it contains at least 70% of cocoa. Remember! Chocolates are high in fats and sugar, so it is better to consume them in moderate amounts. Mary Engler, Ph.D., a professor of physiological nursing at the University of California at San Francisco, suggests taking no more than 200 grams or 7 ounces of dark chocolate in a week. Also look for labels saying sugar contents less than 10 grams.