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15 June, 2024
 
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Is dark chocolate a health booster?

Daily indulgence may support cardiovascular well-being

Source: Yahoo

If one of your health goals is to eat healthy, nutrient-rich foods, you may assume that means saying goodbye to anything chocolatey. Good news: There’s 100 percent a place for chocolate in a balanced diet—especially if you go dark.

Eating dark chocolate in moderation—even every day—is good for you. Intrigued? Here, registered dietitians explain the nutritional benefits of dark chocolate, what to keep in mind when shopping for it, and how you can expect your body to change if you swap out your milk chocolate for dark chocolate for a daily sweet treat.

Is Dark Chocolate Healthy?

Registered dietitian Crystal Scott, RDN, explains that, when eaten in moderation, dark chocolate is considered healthy. One reason why, she says, is because it’s high in antioxidants which help protect the body from free radicals. Free radicals are impossible to avoid. These toxic molecules are found in air pollutants, chemicals in products, and inflammatory foods. These molecules put stress on the body and, over time, can lead to inflammation and disease.

Eating foods high in antioxidants like dark chocolate helps protect the body from free radicals. “Dark chocolate is rich in disease-fighting antioxidants and flavonoids, which studies suggest can play beneficial roles in the body including fighting cell damage related to aging, reducing blood pressure and lowering heart disease risk,” says registered dietitian and Mostly Plant-Based author Mia Syn, RDN.

Both Syn and Scott say that dark chocolate also has several minerals that benefit the body—specifically iron, zinc, and magnesium. Iron is essential for health. The body uses it to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to every part of the body. Not getting enough can lead to feeling fatigued, experiencing G.I. issues, and having trouble concentrating. Zinc is important because it supports immune health and magnesium plays a role in energy production and nerve functioning.

Syn points out that while dark chocolate has these great nutrients, it can also be high in added sugar and saturated fat, which can both negatively impact health. “Additionally, it is a source of caffeine, which can cause restlessness and insomnia when consumed excessively,” she says. For these reasons, it’s best to consume dark chocolate in moderation.

What Happens if You Eat Dark Chocolate Every Day?

If you’re a chocolate lover, there’s a good chance that the type of chocolate you eat is milk chocolate, which is found more abundantly in the U.S. than dark chocolate because it’s what’s typically used in most candy bars. The reason why dark chocolate is healthier than milk chocolate is that milk chocolate is higher in sugar and saturated fat while lower in antioxidants and beneficial minerals. Meanwhile, dark chocolate has five times as many antioxidants as milk chocolate.

If you eat milk chocolate every day, but start eating a serving size of dark chocolate instead, the dietitians say you can expect to experience some small, yet noteworthy changes. One, Scott says, is that you’ll be consuming less sugar since dark chocolate has a lower amount than milk chocolate. This means you’ll be less prone to the highs and lows a sugar rush can bring, affecting both mood and energy levels.

You may also find it easier to concentrate because the antioxidants and iron in dark chocolate increase blood flow to the brain, which helps with cognitive function. The increased blood flow is also good for cardiovascular health, another benefit you can expect to experience if you switch from milk chocolate to dark chocolate.

When shopping for dark chocolate, Scott says to pay attention to the cocoa percentage—the higher it is, the healthier your chocolate will be (she recommends choosing dark chocolate with a cocoa percentage of 70 percent or higher). Scott also shares that choosing organic dark chocolate will ensure that you’re being minimally exposed to pesticides. As with any food, she explains it’s important to check the ingredients list for added sugar, which should be avoided.

Dark chocolate can, of course, be enjoyed as-is, but it can also be paired with other healthy foods too. Syn recommends melting it and using it to coat fruit, such as bananas or strawberries. Scott says that dark chocolate can be used as a topping for Greek yogurt or incorporated into trail mix, with protein-rich nuts. She also likes to use dark chocolate to make energy balls with dates and nuts, adding that another way to use dark chocolate is as a coating for chickpeas or almonds, creating a protein-rich snack.

Aren’t you relieved to know that you don’t have to give up chocolate to live a healthy lifestyle? Just remember to avoid products with added sugar and to enjoy it in moderation—that way, you’re getting the maximum health benefit from this delicious sweet treat.

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Cyprus  |  chocolate  |  benefits  |  health  |  heart

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