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Gourmet Food WorldBaking and PastryBaking and Pastry ResourcesIs Dark Chocolate Healthy? Benefits of Chocolate.

Is Dark Chocolate Healthy? Benefits of Chocolate.

by Gourmet Food World

Chocoholics, rejoice! Dark chocolate has some impressive health benefits.Scientists believe chocolate also helps prevent cancer, improve memory loss, and even makes you live longer. So, is dark chocolate good for you? YES! Studies show chocolate is good for you, and dark chocolate is very good for you (in fact, the darker the better). It is not only good for your heart but may also lift your mood and help you live longer, among other benefits.

What is chocolate?

First, a little background on chocolate. Chocolate is a preparation of cacao seeds, roasted and ground. Before 2000 BC Mayan Indians discovered cocoa trees growing in the rainforests of Central America. Since then, chocolate has been considered a divine substance inspiring passion in those who consume it. Chocolate is still a word that conjures up indescribable ecstasies. Who doesn’t daydream of chocolate truffles, decadent bonbons, and lavish cakes? There are whole Instagram pages devoted to them!

What is dark chocolate?

Dark chocolate is a bitter, rich chocolate typically made of cocoa solids, sugar and cocoa butter, with no milk at all. Certainly, this lack of milk and the high percentage of cocoa affect its flavor and bitterness.

Dark chocolate has cocoa liquor content of 35% or higher. Any chocolate marked bittersweet, semisweet, and extra dark is considered dark chocolate. Products labeled semisweet are more prevalent in the United States than Europe, but many chefs use bittersweet and semisweet interchangeably.

Semisweet chocolate makes is great for dipping and is good to start out working with because the lower cocoa butter content makes it a little easier to work with. Those chocolates listed at 75% cocoa are referred to as extra dark, extra bitter, or high in cocoa content dark chocolate, and chocolate that is between 65 and 75 percent cocoa can be considered bittersweet. Although bittersweet chocolate is a standard favorite for many chefs, its higher cocoa content can make working with it trickier and requires skillful management of temperatures.

The flavor in milk chocolate starts to deteriorate after about six months. The flavor of dark chocolate, like that of fine wine, improves with time for up to 18 to 24 months. The connoisseur in you will appreciate the flavor in darker chocolates.

Chocolate Health Benefits

Chocolate lovers have long believed in the health-giving effects of chocolate, and now the experts agree: chocolate contains high levels of phenol, a chemical that can help reduce the risk of heart disease. The higher the cocoa percentage, the better the health benefits.

The exact nutritional values vary from brand to brand, as they depend on the different levels of cocoa butter and sugar added. For example, an 85% dark chocolate is higher in fat, protein and fiber content, but it is lower in sugar. Much of the chocolate available on the market contain huge amounts of sugar, fat, and calories, which can contribute to an increased risk of diabetes and weight gain if consumers overindulge -that can undermine any benefits that chocolate might have on the heart.

But dark chocolate is something else: reduced-calorie and reduced-sugar chocolate may be a way for chocolate-lovers to enjoy the benefits of chocolate without its potentially unhealthy effects. So, eating dark chocolate is no sin at all, in fact, it is a very healthy superfood scientists recommend. Dark chocolate is loaded with nutrients that can positively affect your health.

Scientists believe when we eat plant foods rich in flavonoids and antioxidants, their benefits are passed on to us. Dark chocolate is one of the best sources of antioxidants in the world. Antioxidants protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals and the ability of its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties to lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and raise your HDL (good cholesterol) levels help blood pressure and also improve insulin resistance. This provides a serious boost in antioxidant action for you. Dark chocolate not only improves your health but specifically lowers the risk of heart disease and decreases stroke risk. Studies have shown it lowers blood pressure and cardiovascular disease risk by 37%!

The role that chocolate’s flavonols play in lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow by inhibiting clotting processes is key. Even the primary fat in chocolate, cocoa butter, isn’t such a health problem because it is made up of stearic acid, which does not raise cholesterol levels. The flavonols in dark chocolate, which improve blood flow to the brain, improve blood flow to the retina as well, so our vision may improve too. Studies also demonstrate that flavonols also offer some neuroprotective benefits and may offer some protection again conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, as well as offering a potential anti-inflammatory in digestive issues such as inflammatory bowel disease.

It is naturally high in iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese. Iron is important for making red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body, while copper triggers the release of iron to form hemoglobin, the substance that carries the oxygen around the body. Magnesium ensures that our parathyroid glands work normally to produce hormones that are very important in healthy bones. Manganese helps to make and activate certain enzymes in the body, including those which break down food.

Last but not least, chocolate boosts your mood. The fatty acids and the health-boosting flavonoids can make you feel happier and improve your mood. The theory is that chocolate stimulates the neural activity in the regions of the brain associated with pleasure and reward. There is also a tendency to associate very dark foods, such as coffee, chocolate, truffles, and caviar, with excitement and luxury, so the benefits are not only chemical but also symbolic.

Enjoyed as part of a balanced and varied diet, chocolate can make a valuable contribution to our nutrition. But not all chocolates are the same, and some chocolates are better for us than others. The more expensive darker chocolates are usually lower in fat and sugar. And as they are usually richer in flavor, too, you might also be less inclined to overeat.

***Always consult with your nutritionist. This is not medical advice.

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