Health Benefits of Chocolate

“Before I met you,
I thought cream and sugar were the best things on earth.
Alas, you stepped in, and even cream and sugar stood to gaze.
How your ravishing taste and melting power sum up within my taste buds, is chemistry, I haven’t found an equation for, yet.
Younger, I called you Shoko-late, forgive my origin, it’s Yoruba.
But, now I know better to adorn you with phonetics befitting for your flavour;
Oh, my Chocolate.”

Let’s just say this is my love for chocolate in a poem…

On a normal day, I wouldn’t go to the supermarket to make a purchase, even if promo sales are on. Don’t judge me, I just don’t feel like I have bought anything without the “bargain” ordeal of open markets.

But what makes the day not normal for me, I mean the day I would intentionally go to a supermarket, is for one reason; to purchase a quality, refrigerated chocolate with lots of varieties to add, and I can bet I am not alone in this.

If you are like me, there is something you need to know. And if you are not, maybe this will convince you:

A 101g bar of dark chocolate, which is the size of two bars of regular chocolate, with 70-85% cocoa solids provides:
604 calories
7.87g of protein
43.06g of fat
46.36g of carbohydrates
11.00g of dietary fibre
24.23g of sugar
12.02 mg of iron
230.00 mg of magnesium
3.34 mg of zinc.

The main ingredient of chocolate is cocoa, Theobroma cacao, which is a plant with high levels of minerals and antioxidants.

Earlier in the 19th century, chocolate was mainly a drink and this was readily affordable and available, compared to the later invention of solid chocolate.

Also, important to note is that there is also “Dark Chocolate”, used to differentiate milk chocolate which contains a lesser quantity of cocoa. Commercial milk chocolate contains cocoa butter, sugar, milk, and small quantities of cocoa. In contrast, dark chocolate has larger amounts of cocoa and less sugar than milk chocolate.

Dark chocolate is rich in minerals, such as iron, magnesium, and zinc. The cocoa in dark chocolate also contains antioxidants called flavonoids, and polyphenols which may provide several health benefits. Antioxidants generally neutralize free radicals and prevent oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress refers to the damage that excessive amounts of free radicals can cause on cells and tissues in the body. Oxidative stress contributes to the natural ageing process.

Over time, the effects of the oxidative stress may also contribute to the development of a variety of diseases, such as:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Parkison’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Cancer
  • Eye disease

Hence, we would be correct to say that, bar chocolate rich in cocoa and with reduced sugar and additives level, would be beneficial in preventing, and managing the health conditions listed above. Let’s take a closer look at some of the health conditions listed above.

Heart disease

Inability of the heart to function well, in instances like high blood pressure. Or cases, where the heart is surrounded by harmful substances like cholesterol which hinders its ability to pump blood.

The flavonoid in dark chocolate triggers the production of nitric oxide in the body, which causes blood vessels to expand, and in turn, lowers the pressure of flowing blood. This phenomenon was tested in a 2015 study by a group of scientists in Iran with patients of high blood pressure who were exposed to a constant quantity of dark chocolate over a period, and the reduction in blood pressure was drastic for all the patients.

Diabetes

The condition of excess sugar in the body fluid, which the system is unable to convert to glucose. This, in total, is the inability of an enzyme called Insulin, to convert this sugar, but what chocolate does is to reinstate the function of this enzyme and regulate blood-glucose level. A constant intake of 48g of 70% dark chocolate each day is recommended by Medical News Today for this condition.

Parkison’s and Alzheimer disease

They are both neurodegenerative diseases that are linked to the brain.
The 2018 study by a mix of scientists from Canada, California and Texas revealed that the same Flavonoid which is equally beneficial for heart disease plays a role in enhancing neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself after an injury or disease.

There is also an association between regular chocolate consumption and cognitive performance.

While I insist that chocolate has health benefits, I would not be oblivious to the unhealthy ones in stores.

How to choose a healthy chocolate bar:

  • Select only chocolate brands with at least 70% of cocoa.
  • Avoid brands with trans fats or a large amount of sugar.
  • If a brand has sugar listed as one of the first sets of ingredients, it could be a signal that it has high sugar content. Choose brands that do not have sugar listed first. Note that the higher the cocoa content, the lower the sugar and vice versa.
  • High-quality chocolate shouldn’t have any milk added to it.
  • Healthy chocolate is flavored with spices, extracts, and oils to improve its taste.
  • Avoid chocolate treated with alkali, which is used to change the color of the chocolate and reduce its bitter taste. The sad thing is this process reduces the antioxidants in chocolate, hence debunk some health benefits earlier mentioned.

I hope this article was helpful, and would make you try out chocolates if you were skeptical and also help you make a better purchase when you crave a chocolate bar.

I’d like to hear from you about this post. Feel free to share in the comments below.


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