Dark chocolate- Nutritional Value and Health Benefits
“What makes dark chocolate healthy?” Well, dark chocolate contains a high percentage of cocoa, the seed known to contain a vast and impressive nutritional profile. It is a source of various nutrients required by the body and can also be used as a healing remedy. From doing wonders to the skin to ensuring a happy heart, dark chocolate is a pleasure you must moderately indulge in!
Cocoa is the dried and fermented seed of the fruit of the cocoa tree and is often used in the preparation of confectionery. However, the idea of chocolate has a misconceived reputation for being indulgent, as adults furiously tell their kids to stay away from it. But what if you were told dark chocolate is good for health? If this has led you to raise your eyebrows suspiciously, let us help you understand the science behind dark chocolate’s benefits.
Types of Dark Chocolate
Sweet dark chocolate:
By definition, a "sweet dark chocolate" must contain at least 15% chocolate liquor in it. It is the mildest dark chocolate and can have a cacao content of up to 34%. Its balance of ingredients makes it a dark chocolate good for health.
Semisweet dark chocolate:
Although it is available in bar form as well, semisweet dark chocolate is frequently sold as "morsels" or "chips." A chocolate must have a minimum of 35% chocolate liquor to be placed in this category. The normal range for the cacao content for this variety is between 35% and 49%.
Bittersweet dark chocolate:
The majority of bittersweet chocolate bars sold in the market have at least 50% cacao, and some may even contain 80-90% of it. Consequently, bittersweet chocolate has the strongest chocolate flavour as it is the "darkest" of all the dark chocolates. People with anxiety and sleep disorders should consider this dark chocolate for diet.
Dark Chocolate Nutrition
The following is the nutritional breakdown of general dark chocolate(per 100g):
|7.79 g of protein|
|42.63 g of fat|
|45.9 g of carbohydrates|
|10.9g of dietary fibre|
|11.09mg of iron|
|228 mg of magnesium|
|3.31mg of zinc|
A wellspring of various micronutrients:Dark chocolate’s nutrient profile shows that it is a brilliant source of minerals like iron, manganese, and magnesium. Iron is required to transport oxygen to various tissues and organs in our body, while magnesium is needed for the conduction of signals by nerves as well as for the contraction of our muscles. Manganese, on the other hand, is needed for a healthy immune system.
Contains essential fats:The oil present in cacao, which is usually referred to as cocoa butter, contains monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids. Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) are good fats, and the MUFAs present in cocoa are oleic acid (also present in olive oil), palmitic acid, and stearic acid. Stearic acid is neutral, does not raise cholesterol and is known to be beneficial for the heart.
Consists of insoluble fibre:The cocoa bean is high in fibre, which can improve the LDL (bad cholesterol) vs. HDL (good cholesterol) ratio. Most of the outer bran of the seed is usually lost in processing. Yet, some fibre makes it to the end product. Its total dietary fibre is known to help in weight loss, while insoluble fibre may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Rich in antioxidants:Dark chocolate nutrients also include antioxidants, which are compounds known to reduce the effects of free radicals, the harmful substances in the body that can damage cells. Hence, taking dark chocolate for diet can help you fight these free radicals. It is rich in flavonoids, the antioxidant that is particularly responsible for the typical bitter flavour and demonstrates anti-inflammatory activity, thus reducing inflammation.
Health Benefits of Dark chocolate
May reduce the risk of hypertension:High blood pressure is a risk factor for developing heart diseases in the long term and refers to the increased pressure of blood as it flows through the vessels. It is estimated that the consumption of cocoa can reduce the risk of developing hypertension in later years due to the phenols present in it.
May prove beneficial for a happy heart:Several studies have established a positive relationship between polyphenols that are naturally present in cocoa of dark chocolate and heart health. Cocoa flavonoids are proven to help in vasodilation - a term used for the widening of blood vessels that helps them to relax and contributes to normal blood flow. This in turn can be beneficial against several coronary heart diseases.
May help against anxiety:Catecholamines are certain hormones produced by the brain during stress. It is found that the consumption of dark chocolate is healthy and can reduce the production of these hormones and can help relieve anxiety traits.
Brain Function:Dark chocolate benefits are associated with improved brain and visual activity. The flavonoid content of cocoa is responsible for several beneficial activities in the brain. Some research even suggests that it may help improve both short and long-term memory. Besides, cocoa polyphenols are attributed to expressing an antidepressant-like effect as they are known to play a role in influencing mood.
Beneficial for weight loss:Recent researches suggest consumption of cocoa may help with losing weight. A study has also stated the positive effect of the ingestion of cocoa in the reduction of body weight and fat. Interestingly, it is also found that cocoa can help suppress appetite. Healthy dark chocolate, without the addition of excessive sugar and fat, can thus aid in weight loss. Moderation is key, as excessive chocolate consumption from commercial sources can have quite the opposite effect.
Exceptional for skin:The antioxidants derived from cocoa can have a positive impact on skin. The anti-inflammatory properties of cocoa are essential for maintaining skin health and may help in the detoxification process of harmful species. While cocoa is used in a range of skin products to treat conditions like acne and to help with wound healing, what’s also interesting to note is that apart from using it as a treatment, dark chocolate may even help with the prevention of skin-related ailments.
That pretty much sums up the subject “is dark chocolate good for you?” The use of cocoa as a healing food component dates back several centuries. Eating dark chocolate, which comprises a high amount of cocoa can thus prove to be helpful in several ways, such as maintaining the health of your skin, heart, brain, and overall wellness. While dark chocolate is good for you, it should be ingested in moderation as it can lead to unwanted weight gain. It’s best to stick to bars made from high amounts of cocoa and capped sugar-fat ratio. To add more dark chocolate to your diet, you can try making snacks like dark chocolate lassi and nutty hot chocolate dip at home.