It is no secret that during the month of February chocolate sales skyrocket because of Valentine’s Day; the special holiday dedicated to showering our significant others with sweets and heart shaped presents. Thinking about the copious amounts of chocolate most of us consume on this day may be concerning to some, but you may not have to be so worried about eating those heart shaped chocolates your sweetie bought you after all. There has been consistent evidence that chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, contains nutrients that can be beneficial to an individual’s health. The component of chocolate that makes it beneficial is the antioxidant containing cocoa. Dark chocolate typically contains 60% cocoa or greater.
The reason cocoa is so beneficial is mainly due to the antioxidants it contains. Depending on how high the cocoa content is, some dark chocolate treats can have more antioxidants than fruits, such as blueberries and acai berries, which are fruits with considerably high levels of the nutrient. Consuming sufficient amounts of antioxidants has shown to help reduce blood pressure, improve blood flow, and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
Dark Chocolate effects on Blood Pressure and Blood Flow
One major benefit of dark chocolate is its potential to lower blood pressure and improve blood blow to various areas of the body. The antioxidants send a signal to the arteries telling them to relax, which causes them to expand, allowing for greater blood flow and decreased blood pressure.
Dark Chocolate’s Role in Decreasing Cholesterol Levels
The antioxidants in cocoa also help to prevent the development of free radicals, which can have a damaging effect on the tissues in our bodies, including our heart tissue. LDL cholesterol or “bad” cholesterol is another thing negatively impacted by free radicals. There is potential for decreasing LDL cholesterol and increasing HDL or “good” cholesterol by eating foods high in antioxidants,
Research has also shown to have an influence on reducing insulin resistance, which has previously been linked to heart disease.
Other food and beverage sources that contain significant amounts of antioxidants include:
1 cup (8 oz) Decaff and caffeinated Black Tea (brewed)
1 whole apple (with skin)
1 whole pear (with skin)
1 whole peach (with skin)
1 cup (8oz) blueberries
1 cup (8oz) blackberries
1 medium sized banana
Remember: Just because there are benefits to eating dark chocolate, does not mean you can eat pounds of it every day! The recommended daily intake of this delicious treat is 30-60g or 1-2 ounces.