It’s that time of the year when we all enjoy a little chocolate, but did you know that if you chose a dark organic chocolate, it could actually benefit your health – in moderation of course!
Dark chocolate is full of flavonoids which are a great antioxidant and have been associated with boosting memory and slowing dementia. It can also help improve blood flow to the brain which can aid memory, focus and clarity.
The bean from cocoa is very rich in flavanols which are antioxidants that fight free radicals. It is these flavanols that make dark chocolate good for you. Flavonoids have other health benefitting properties such as helping to lower blood pressure, supporting a healthy gut and maintaining muscle function.
In this article we look at some of these powerful and delicious health benefits.
Improves brain function:
Research indicates that flavanols increase blood flow to the brain, which have a positive impact on brain function, including better reaction time, visual-spatial awareness and stronger memory.
Research shows that cocoa flavanoids may also help maintain cognitive function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment. Additionally, cocoa contains stimulant substances like caffeine and theobromine, which may be a key reason why it can improve brain function in the short term according to research.
Boosts athletic performance:
The epicatechin in dark chocolate increases the production of nitric oxide in the blood, which supports circulation and reduces the amount of oxygen an athlete uses while engaged in exercise. This allows the athlete to maintain workout intensity for longer.
Another study found that after eating dark chocolate, cyclists used less oxygen when cycling at a moderate pace. They also cycled further in a 2-minute flat-out time trial.
Research shows that consuming chocolate on a regular basis gave a significant reduction in perceived stress score . The evidence showed that consumption of 40 grams of dark chocolate for two weeks reduced levels of stress hormones in highly stressed people.
A 2019 study by UCL found that eating dark chocolate can help reduce anxiety, positively affect mood and relieve symptoms of depression.
Improves gut function:
Cacao contains fibre which stimulates the body’s digestive enzymes and helps with the absorption of nutrients, improving digestive function, gut health and bowel regularity. Fibre can also aid in weight management as it helps you feel fuller for longer.
Research is highlighting the enormous role our gut plays in our health and well-being, not only does it help with digestion but 75% of our body’s immune system reside in the gut. It affects our mental health, weight and cholesterol. So, choosing foods that can help our GI health is very important.
Increases heart health:
The antioxidants in dark chocolate have been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of clotting and increase blood circulation to the heart, thus lowering the risks of stroke, coronary heart disease and death from heart disease. A 2012 study showed that daily chocolate intake over a 4-week period was linked to better vascular function in people with congestive heart failure.
Reduces tiredness and fatigue:
As well as its high flavanol content, cacao powder is also rich in magnesium - a cofactor for over 350 enzyme reactions in the human body, many of which involve energy metabolism. Upping your magnesium intake is an easy, natural way to help reduce tiredness and fatigue
A pilot study carried out on patients with chronic fatigue syndrome found that their symptoms were alleviated when they consumed dark chocolate, much more so than when they consumed milk chocolate that had brown dye added to it.
According to the scientists from Hull York Medical School who carried out the pilot study, it is possible the dark chocolate is boosting levels of serotonin, a brain chemical.
May reduce blood pressure:
The relationship between cacao and blood pressure was first found in the Dutch Zutphen Elderly Study, where 470 elderly men were tracked for 15 years. Those with the highest cocoa consumption had lower blood pressure and an adjusted 50% relative reduction in risk of cardiovascular and all-cause mortality. Since then, various randomised dietary studies show that consuming cacao every day can significantly reduce blood pressure compared to those that don’t consume cacao.
Many controlled studies show that cocoa and dark chocolate can improve blood flow and lower blood pressure, though the effects are usually mild .
Helps you feel good:
As well as stopping you from feeling stressed, cacao also actively makes you feel happier! With its emotion boosting endorphins and relaxing effects, you can add chocolate to your life guilt free.
Dark chocolate has many health benefits and can definitely be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. There are many healthy ways to incorporate chocolate into your lifestyle, so find what works for you.
An easy way is to incorporate our Beetroot & Maqui juice into your routine.
Our mouth-watering unique Beetroot Blend with added Raw Cacao makes for a refreshing and energising drink. Visit our shop today to order yours.