October 28 is National Chocolate Day so what better time to stock up on this favorite treat to indulge in now, or keep a couple of days to hand out to trick-or-treaters. Either way, you will be doing your taste buds and health a good deed.
The history of chocolate began more than 2,500 years ago with the Aztecs who loved their liquid treat. In those days it was a bitter product until the Europeans began adding sugar to chocolate in the 16th century.
Today, there is a movement toward consuming more dark chocolate because of its health benefits. Countries located near the equator have the best climates for producing cocoa trees and the world’s best chocolate.
According to Healthline, dark chocolate is one of the best sources of antioxidants you can find. Here are more health benefits:
• Provides a large variety of nutrients. High quality dark chocolate is very nutritious. A 100-gram bar with 70% to 85% cocoa contains a decent amount of fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese. It also has potassium, zinc, and selenium, says Healthline. However, that same bar has 600 calories so dark chocolate should be consumed in moderation.
• Offers powerful antioxidant protection. The oxygen radical absorption capacity, or ORAC, scale measures the antioxidant capacity of food. Scientists place cell-damaging free radicals in a test tube against a sample of food to see how well the antioxidants in the food disarm the scavengers. Raw, unprocessed cocoa beans tested extremely high in their capacity to destroy the free radicals. The polyphenols, flavanols and catechins in dark chocolate have more antioxidant activity than any fruits tested, including blueberries.
• Improves blood flow and blood pressure. The flavanols in dark chocolate stimulate the lining of the arteries to produce nitric oxide, which helps the vessels relax. This improves blood flow and reduces blood pressure according to many controlled studies.
• Increases brain power. A study published in the journal Scientific Reports found that when healthy adults consume flavanol-rich cacao either in powder form or in dark chocolate—70% is best—their brain receives increased oxygenation, according to an article by Drs. Mehmet Oz and Michael Roizen. Participants in the study had three times more oxygen delivered to their brain than those who consumed low-flavanol cacao.
• May reduce heart disease. Dark chocolate contains compounds that appear to reduce the oxidation of LDL, the “bad” cholesterol that can clog arteries and lead to heart disease. According to Healthline, a study of 470 elderly men found that cocoa not only lowered blood pressure but also reduced the risk of death from heart disease by 50% over 15 years. Further research found that consuming dark chocolate more than five times weekly lowered the risk of heart disease by 57%.
• Improves insulin sensitivity. According to an article published in PMC, a Japanese study found that men had a 35% reduced risk of diabetes when they consumed “chocolate snack pieces” once weekly compared to those who never or almost never ate chocolate. A similar reduction was found in women in a separate study. Scientists say that cacao was able to lower insulin resistance over a period of a few weeks.
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