When your sweet tooth hits, it can hit hard. While there aren’t many options for a healthy sweet treat, there are a few that are better than others.
Sweets with low sugar content or natural sugar content are better choices than a candy bar packed full of processed sugar, for instance. Dark chocolate is another option for a satisfyingly sweet bite with less guilt than others.
So, why is dark chocolate such a nice choice for curbing your cravings?
To start, it is full of fiber and antioxidants for protection against cardiovascular disease, free radicals, and high blood pressure.
But what you may not know is that new evidence is showing that chocolate may also be linked to a reduction of stress levels.
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF CHOCOLATE?
Dark chocolate is rich in polyphenols, or antioxidants. A healthy dose of daily antioxidants has many positive effects on the body, from protecting against free radicals to fighting off the damaging results of inflammatory conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.
Antioxidants are the kicker here. These are natural molecules that protect the cells and their mitochondria (engines) from outside danger, like unstable free radicals. High levels of free radicals in the body can lead to diseases linked to oxidative stress such as cancer.
Antioxidants are found in fruits and vegetables – and dark chocolate! – and they ward off oxidative stress and spiked inflammation levels to keep the body happy, healthy, and protected for even more serious conditions.
We are not saying that eating dark chocolate will cure cancer - but this is one way to reduce oxidative stress while satisfying a dangerous craving for sweet foods.
Dark chocolate’s high antioxidant content makes it a fantastic (and delicious) option for getting a high dose of daily antioxidants! This being said, if you are excited to learn about the health benefits of chocolate and itching to grab a few bars, make sure to look for the healthiest options.
Look for dark chocolate with high cacao percentages (70% or more), and avoid sugar-laden bars that negate the positive benefits of the chocolate.
DOES CHOCOLATE ACTUALLY RELIEVE STRESS?
In 2009, a study was performed by ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research on the effects of dark chocolate on anxiety and stress. Bear in mind that the test administered for determining the health benefits of chocolate was conducted on a small sample.
The participants ate 40 grams of dark chocolate per day for two weeks, and then their blood and urine were tested throughout the process to gauge any notable changes. After two weeks, the test concluded that this chocolate consumption contributed to lower cortisol and catecholamine levels in the body - naturally occurring stress hormones.
A more recent study from Loma Linda University in 2018 tested the effects of 70% dark chocolate on brain health.
The results found that the high cacao content, though consumed in small amounts, had positive effects on brain function including enhanced neuroplasticity, better memory and cognition, and an elevated mood through the regulation of intracellular signaling pathways.
As you can see, dark chocolate has several lovely benefits for the human body aside from simply tasting nice and curbing a sweet craving. When eaten in moderation, you may find that you are less stressed and better protected against inflammatory conditions.
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