Is Dark Chocolate Now a Health Food?
Yes, it is true that dark chocolate has compounds that offer health benefits. Even though you can enjoy it on a daily basis, you need to be aware of the portion size. Also some brands are better than others. You will need to choose your own brand based on the ingredients and nutritional labels.
Dark chocolate is rich in healthful compounds known as flavanols. At high levels, cocoa flavanols have been shown to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, improve cognition and possibly lower the risk of diabetes. Dark chocolate has the highest amount of cocoa flavanols; milk chocolate has less, and white chocolate has none.
But while cocoa flavanols in dark chocolate make it a healthful treat, they give it a bitter flavour. To overcome this undesirable dilemma, manufacturers may process chocolate to make it more palatable, but by doing so can also remove some of their beneficial compounds.
Matt Hartings, assistant professor of chemistry at American University says that ‘Factors in processing, including fermentation and roasting, which deepen the flavour and give chocolate its distinct aroma, can affect flavanol content’. He goes on to say that ‘roasting generates all sorts of new flavours ... and to generate those flavours, you have to destroy molecules in the unroasted bean ... and there is always the chance that it is destroying compounds that we want around, including flavanols’.
The high proportion of flavonoids in dark chocolate contribute to the following health benefits, according to studies:
- Improves blood vessel health;
- Reduces blood pressure in people with high blood pressure;
- Reduces inflammation and plaque build-up in blood vessels, which can lead to atherosclerosis;
- Improves cholesterol profile by increasing HDL (good cholesterol) levels and lowering LDLs (bad cholesterol) due to stearic acid, which is converted to oleic acid.
- Improves insulin resistance and sensitivity.
- Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which is the same chemical that your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. PEA encourages your brain to release feel-good endorphins.
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