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Chocolate is a type of candy that is made from the beans of the cocoa plant. The cocoa beans go through different types of processing and manufacturing to produce chocolate.
They are harvested, cleaned, roasted, and shelled, after which they are referred to as cocoa nibs.
The cocoa nibs are then ground and refined to yield cocoa liquor, which can be used to manufacture cocoa powder and chocolate. Milk, sugar, and other ingredients are then added to a second refining process to yield chocolate. (1)
What are the nutritional benefits of dark chocolate?
Cocoa bean figures at the top of the most antioxidant-rich foods in terms of therapeutic potential. (2)
Antioxidants are known for their ability to fight free radicals in the body and reduce inflammation, which can lead to chronic diseases such as CVD, metabolic disorder, and various cancers.
The polyphenolic groups that the cocoa bean possesses are anthocyanidins, proanthocyanidins, and catechins, which contribute to the bitter flavor of dark chocolate. (3)
Chocolate that undergoes a significant amount of processing to remove the bitterness from the end product will have highly reduced amounts of these beneficial polyphenols.
Is dark chocolate good for digestion?
A recent human study found that dark chocolate consumed alone can stimulate the gallbladder, induce stomach contractions, and increase overall motility when compared to the standard meal without dark chocolate. (4)
Dark chocolate and its polyphenols may also increase healthy gut bacteria and decrease inflammation in the bowel. (5)
Is dark chocolate effective in treating PMS symptoms?
Popular theories in research over the years have suggested chocolate cravings are linked to premenstrual and perimenstrual nutrient deficiencies (iron), fluctuations in ovarian hormones, or some of the active pharmacological components that might relieve symptoms of PMS. (6)
Other areas of research have mentioned that dark chocolate may act as a cannabinoid and may affect the cannabinoid receptors in such a way that improves your mood.
If you are experiencing mood alterations due to PMS, perhaps dark chocolate can help you feel better without actually treating the symptoms. (7)
Can people suffering from high blood pressure eat dark chocolate?
Those who suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure) may eat dark chocolate but in appropriate amounts.
They must also remain mindful of its inherent fat and sodium content. They should read the label to check for the correct portion size and to rule out the presence of added salts.
However, overconsumption, as well as other poor dietary and lifestyle habits, can make the harms of dark chocolate outweigh its purported benefits.
Does dark chocolate protect the skin from sun damage?
Some foods are credited with sun-protective properties due to their polyphenolic content, such as green tea, grape seeds, wine, and chocolate.
Given the conflicting evidence, one cannot attach great value to dark chocolate for fighting sun damage.
The most effective way to shield your skin from the harmful UV rays of the sun is to regularly apply a premium-quality sunscreen with proper SPF on all the exposed areas of the body.
Does dark chocolate have any sexual benefits? Is it an aphrodisiac?
Dark chocolate is considered to be aphrodisiac. However, human research conducted was observational, making this claim rather subjective. (12)
The nitrogenous compounds of caffeine and theobromine are thought to induce a pleasant feeling. Unsaturated N-acylethanolamines, another component of dark chocolate and cocoa powder, mimic cannabinoids.
Can people suffering from diabetes eat dark chocolate?
Those who have diabetes can eat dark chocolate. Dark chocolate should be treated as any other dessert food, and grams of carbohydrate should be accounted for. (13)
Depending on gender, age, and activity level, people with diabetes are typically advised to eat 45-60 g carbohydrates at each meal.
The recommended carbohydrate choices will vary depending on the type of diabetes (type 1 or 2), how well the blood sugar is controlled, and the type of medication recommended by the doctor.
Dark chocolate loaded with polyphenols may improve glucose homeostasis and insulin sensitivity and may even lower the risk of gestational diabetes when consumed as part of an overall high-flavonoid diet. (14)
These flavonoids are thought to improve the function and integrity of the beta cells on the pancreas in type 2 diabetes. (15)
Is dark chocolate considered good for weight loss?
There are mixed results in the research on the effect of dark chocolate and weight loss.
The smell of dark chocolate may promote early satiety by reducing the secretion of the hunger hormone called ghrelin to curb overall appetite, thus lowering the risk of weight gain. (16)
Flavonoids found in dark chocolate have been found to exert metabolic actions to reduce lipogenesis, induce lipolysis, and increase the secretion of adiponectin. All of these actions reduce the deposition of fat and insulin resistance and, therefore may be considered good for weight loss. (17)
One meta-analysis found that dark chocolate intake led to considerable reductions in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels without affecting the HDL cholesterol levels. However, this effect was rather short-lived, which is why dark chocolate cannot serve as a substitute for standard cholesterol-lowering medications. (18)
What is considered the best time to consume dark chocolate?
A suggestion would be to consume it when you are craving something sweet.
Dark chocolate’s rich flavor is known to increase satiety, which may, in turn, help reduce cravings or consumption of other sweets high in sugar and saturated fats.
Is it healthy to eat dark chocolate every day? What are the side effects of eating it daily?
Dark chocolate has several nutrition-related health benefits. A meta-analysis research study found that moderate dark chocolate consumption of 6 servings or less per week was found to lowering the risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. (19)
If you are healthy and eat a well-balanced diet that includes dark chocolate in moderation, there should be no side effects.
Overconsumption of chocolate can, however, lead to excess calories, excess sugar intake, and excess fat intake, which can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity over time.
What precautions should be kept in mind while buying dark chocolate?
To reap the health benefits of dark chocolate, some points should be kept in mind while buying. These are:
- It should have a high percentage of cocoa or cocoa bean solid.
- Look for chocolate bars with 70% or higher cocoa content, and review the nutrition label and ingredients list. Ingredients are listed by weight, so the first ingredients listed should be chocolate, cocoa, or cacao.
- Products labeled as Dutch cocoa undergoes different processing than other cocoa and are found to contain fewer polyphenols.
- Cocoa nibs, which is the second stage of processing from the cocoa bean, can be purchased and added to smoothies or desserts. However, be warned that they are very bitter in comparison to manufactured chocolate.