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Chocolate - It's Healthy For Us Says Research

Last updated on : March 04 2019

girl eating a piece of  chocolate

A Brief History of Chocolate

The Mayans unlocked the secret of cacao seeds in the 3rd century by cultivating cacao plants found in the Central American rainforests. They fermented, roasted and ground the beans into a paste for a frothy chocolate drink - later adding vanilla, honey, chili, and other spices to provide tasty variations to the beginnings of this healthy food.   

In more recent history, we credit Joseph Fry with making the first chocolate bar. He discovered in 1847 how to turn chocolate into a solid by mixing melted cacao butter into cocoa powder. And by 1868, the now-famous Cadburys started selling chocolate bars and candies in England. 

Today, the United States, Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium are the top four producers of chocolate, through large corporations like Nestle and Cadburys. The most popular chocolate bars are Snickers, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Milky Way, and Hershey's - we've come a long way from chocolates humble beginnings. 

Health Benefits Of Dark Chocolate

With all its deliciousness, poor chocolate had to suffer bad press for quite some time as it was considered food that leads to weight gain.

But recent research has thrown up some fantastic health benefits of dark chocolate (we can never thank those scientists enough).

Here are some reasons to stock up and enjoy a piece of chocolate daily without the guilt.

Longevity

A British Medical Journal study found that participants who ate dark chocolate regularly had lower mortality rates than those who didn’t. Cocoa beans have more antioxidant properties than green tea, say experts. In another study, Harvard researchers concluded that eating chocolate can add two years to a person’s life expectancy.

Prevent diabetes

Eating dark chocolate may help delay or entirely prevent the onset of diabetes. Cocoa has been found to enhance sensitivity to insulin in the body. Your body uses insulin to process sugar and regulate your energy.

Flawless skin

Eating chocolate can help you maintain healthy skin. Chocolate can cause pimples and other skin problems, but recent studies suggest that it can have an anti-aging effect that offsets this.

Dark chocolate contains cocoa beans as a critical ingredient, and cocoa beans contain phytochemicals that keep your skin protected against aging and certain diseases. The flavonoids are also believed to prevent and “significantly reduce” wrinkles by fighting the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays.

Lose weight

In another bit of good news, researchers found that eating dark chocolate in moderate quantities can aid those looking to shed a few pounds.

Since chocolate makes you feel fuller with fewer amounts, you are less likely to crave unhealthy snacks like sugary, fatty, and salty food. Remember that milk chocolate will not have the same effect, so stick to the darker versions and varieties.  

Relax and rejuvenate

Ever wonder why you tend to reach for chocolate when you are stressed, and nothing seems to be working for you?

The biological reason behind this is the presence of a compound called anandamide, which can have a relaxing effect. In recent studies, people with anxiety were found to have reduced stress levels after eating dark chocolate.

Heart healthy

A recent Swedish study with more than 31,000 women participants found that eating chocolate can reduce the risk of heart failure. This sweet treat can decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels in your body, also known as “bad fats.”

Reducing these bad fats has several cardiovascular health benefits and lower blood pressure levels. The antioxidant compounds found in chocolate improve the flexibility of the arteries and veins, thereby keeping your heart functioning well.

Consuming chocolate makes you happier

JK Rowling got it right; chocolate is the perfect antidote to Dementors (an embodiment of depression in the Harry Potter books).

Research has found that phenethylamine, an ingredient present in chocolate, triggers your brain to release endorphins, which has the power to make you feel better.

Moreover, this yummy delight can also keep your mind healthy by improving blood flow, which helps prevent memory decline and other mental diseases that often make an appearance with advancing age.

infographic - bring on the chocolate

Dark Chocolate v Milk Chocolate

The essential difference between dark and milk chocolate is the concentration of cocoa, and the additives used. 

Dark chocolate usually has between 35% to 100% more cocoa than milk chocolate. It's also lower in sugar, and as a result, has a bitter taste turning some people completely off.  

Milk chocolate is sweeter than dark chocolate, and so has a broader appeal. It makes up most of the famous chocolate candies and bars available today. Its milkier taste and creamier texture come from added milk solids, sugar, and cream.

Calories And Nutritional Value

Both dark and milk chocolate has the same amount of calories; however dark chocolate has fewer carbohydrates and fat than the milk version. Consuming more carbohydrates in milk chocolate increases insulin levels causing the body to store more fat - so you're better off eating dark chocolate than milk chocolate.

Additionally, dark chocolate has more dietary fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium than milk chocolate - and makes an excellent antioxidant

Dark Chocolate And Tooth Decay

Some studies show that dark chocolate helps fight tooth decay, cavities, and the build-up of plaque. 

Dark chocolate contains naturally occurring polyphenols and antioxidant compounds. These inhibit the growth of oral bacteria, neutralize lousy breath, and reduce the amount of sugar and starches turned into tooth-decaying acid - these compounds might be better tooth protectors than fluoride.  

Choose Dark Chocolate Wisely

Choose dark chocolate that has at least as much fiber as sugar, and one not processed - processing makes the cocoa less bitter but removes much of its nutrient values. So opt for unprocessed. 

Read the label to ensure you're getting value out of your choice - even the dark variety can add too much fat, sugar, and calories to your diet.  Regardless of how healthy the chocolate is, overeating is not good for your health.

As we always recommend, consult a medical professional, a physician or registered dietitian, before modifying your diet. 

Buying Fairtrade

Fair Trade certified chocolate ensures that cacao farmers get a fair deal for there efforts. It provides large corporations to pay appropriately, reinvest into local communities, and eliminate the use of child labor.

However, the Fairtrade Organization is under increasing pressure from its members. Cadbury recently announced it's withdrawal in favor of a set of self-regulation rules. It's possible that other corporations will go the same route, complicating the ethical standards required at the grassroots level.

We believe choosing FairTrade chocolate is the better choice, or go for locally grown or sustainable organic chocolate.

Where To Buy Online

Chocolate.org features handmade, artisan chocolates and gift baskets from independent chocolate shops across the USA. Their goal is to make unique chocolate’s available to gift buyers and chocolate lovers, sourcing the finest chocolate in small chocolate shops around the globe. Their vendors provide a product that is more fresh, more artistic, and less common than factory-made chocolate.

Summary

There are now so many studies proving dark chocolate contains minerals that can work wonders for your health. However, avoid the sugary, milky, and versions filled with filler as those will only load up the calories.

Go for quality, organic dark chocolate that has cocoa content of at least 70 percent. Also, keep a watch on the quantity—a piece or two after dinner is the ideal amount of everyday consumption.

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