As is famously said about chocolate, it is the most popular food product that no one knows much about. Surprisingly, a large number of us aren’t even aware of the fact that chocolate has been known to mankind for the past 4000 years! Incidentally, did you know that when chocolate first reached the western coast it was believed to be a drink made through witchcraft? Or that for the longest time chocolate was seen as sinful by the church? Chocolate is so much more than your go to food during a crisis. Since its introduction and inception, it has been widely believed by physicians and patients alike that there are several health benefits of dark chocolate. Over the years, research has proved some of these benefits. Thus, without further ado, let’s delve into understanding how this sinfully good to taste concoction is beneficial to us:
- 10 Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate:
- A Brief History of Chocolate:
- On What Date is the World Chocolate Day Celebrated?
- News on Benefits of Chocolate:
10 Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate:
There have been several reports claiming that chocolate is one of the most dangerous desserts. Yes, milk chocolate has less nutrients, and more sugar as well as calories. However, there are several types of chocolates, and not every type is harmful. Candies, white chocolate and milk chocolate may contribute to obesity and increasing blood sugar but dark chocolate with nearly 70%-80% cocoa content actually helps control several diseases. Here are 10 health benefits of dark chocolate:
1. Regulates Blood Pressure/Hypertension:
Dark chocolate with a minimum of 50% cocoa in it helps regulate and control high blood pressure. Cocoa beans are rich in flavonoids which upon entering the body act as vasorelaxants which means that they reduce the tension between blood vessels.
- In 2007, German researcher Dr. Dirk Taubert and his team conducted an experiment with 44 participants, 20 women and 24 men who suffered from hypertension. These men and women were randomly divided into two groups, with one group receiving a 30 calorie per day dosage of dark chocolate, while the other received a similar amount of white. By the end of 18 weeks, those participants who were on dark chocolate reported a reduction of their systolic blood pressure by 3 points.
- Similarly, in 2011, a Harvard study comprising of 24 chocolate studis and over 1000 participants declared that dark chocolate especially within the strength range of 50%-70% cocoa can lower blood pressure considerably.
2. Manages Diabetes:
It is commonly believed that persons suffering from type II diabetes shouldn’t even look at sweets, lest they endanger their lives by consuming some. However, eating dark chocolate does not fall in that category. Dark chocolate primarily has higher cocoa content and very little sugar and milk contents. This also means that dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids and flavonoids help reduce insulin resistance, ease out tension in blood vessels to improve blood flow, improves absorption of proteins, and prevents chronic inflammation.
- The 2011 Harvard study also revealed that dark chocolate taken in measured amounts helps reduce blood sugar levels. The key words here being, “measured amounts”, excess of dark chocolate can lead to other health issues as dark chocolate has its own share of fats and calories. However, taken in measured amounts, one can take dark chocolate for a long term without harming their bodies.
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3. Promotes Heart Health:
Well, it is but obvious that since flavonoids in dark chocolate help reduce blood pressure, they also help promote heart health. For, the longest time it was believed that chocolate which is high in calories is actually harmful for health, however, recent studies have shown that dark chocolate in moderate amounts is beneficial to heart health.
- The 2011 Harvard study which was first announced in Atlanta at the American Heart Association revealed that dark chocolate contributes to reducing risk of heart failure and other heart disease.
- Similarly, in 2015, the online journal Heart published a study report which had spanned 11 years and comprised of 21000 participants, all residents of Norfolk, England. In the course of the observational study, it was observed that people eating about 3.5 ounces of chocolate everyday tended to be lower risk for developing heart diseases. This conclusion was drawn upon the fact that during the course of the observation 12% chocolate eaters dies due to heart complications whereas, 17.4% non-chocolate eaters died due to heart complications.
4. Helps with Pregnancy:
You read it right! Chocolate helps in levitating and controlling mood swings caused by the hormones wreaking havoc in a pregnant woman’s body. What more reasons can a woman need to send her husband on a chocolate craving run! And ladies, if your partners, parents and other caretakers don’t believe you, show them this article and quote this study.
- In 2004, the Early Human Development published the results of a Finnish Study with 300 pregnant participants. The study revealed that pregnant women who ate chocolate everyday reported being in a better mood and less stressed. Additionally, the children born to women who ate a small amount of dark chocolate everyday, showed less fear, laughed more and had lesser mood swings.
So, there you have your reason to eat chocolate everyday for the course of your pregnancy. You do it for the sake of your health and your child’s health. 😉
5. Benefits Skin:
We are very sure that most of you have heard of a chocolate spa, maybe even indulged yourself with one. Did you notice how soft, young and firm your skin looked after the spa? How good and relaxed you felt? Well, thank the antioxidants present in your chocolate. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, which means that it can combat the free radicals harming your skin, giving your skin a younger and healthier look.
6. Regulates PCOS:
Women diagnosed with PCOS are also believed to be at risk of developing insulin resistance and type II diabetes. This means that women are required to stay away from sweet foods. However, as research has proved that dark chocolate improves insulin sensitivity, reduces stress and anxiety and in cases even help with weight loss.
7. Promotes Weight Loss
How many of us have been told that chocolate leads to weight gain and that in order to lose weight, one needs to quit chocolate completely? Well, what if that is not entirely true? Yes, eating large amounts of milk or white chocolate regularly will lead to weight gain but eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate regularly may lead to lower BMIs.
- In 2012, the Archives of Internal Medicine, published the report of an observational study conducted by Golomb, Beatrice. The study concluded that people who reported eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate regularly actually have comparatively lower BMIs.
- In 2015, the International Archives of Medicine published a study report by Bohannon, Johannes et al. In the study, participant between ages 19-67 years were divided into 3 groups and each group was given a daily dose of dark chocolate where the percentage of cocoa differed, the highest concentration being 81% of cocoa in dark chocolate. Regular BMI as well as hip and weight measurements were conducted for the experiment that lasted for several weeks. The results showed that higher levels of cocoa in chocolates led to ease in weight loss as well as lowering of BMI.
8. Reduces Anxiety and Stress:
Several tests over the years have proved that chocolate helps increase the serotonin levels in the body. There was a big chocolate wave in 2007 when people undertaking stressful exams were advised to eat a portion of chocolate before sitting for the exam, so that they are calm enough. The higher the cocoa concentration in the chocolate, the better it will react and produce serotonin in the body. However, precaution must be taken that one is not overeating dark chocolate to feel good, as it may lead to indigestion as well as nausea, not to mention, unregulated intake of chocolate may have the adverse effects.
- A few years ago, Nestle conducted a two week study to understand how dark chocolate worked on anxiety. The chocolate used contained over 70% cocoa and participants were given a daily dose of 40 gms of this chocolate. The participants were also divided into 2 groups, high anxiety and low anxiety groups. At the end of the two weeks, it was discovered that patients in the high anxiety group reported considerable ease and calm. The same results were not reported by the individuals in the lower anxiety group, indicating that chocolate helps with managing high anxiety.
- While the Nestle test, like other tests proved that dark chocolate can reduce stress, 40 gms of chocolate a day is too much chocolate. In 2008, a study proved that as little 6.7 gms of dark chocolate every day is enough to have a positive impact on the body.
9. Lowers Bad Cholesterol Levels:
Yes, this is true. Having a certain amount of dark chocolate everyday can reduce your bad cholesterol level as well as increase your good cholesterol levels. Cocoa is rich in polyphenols which is known to inhibit the increase of LDL cholesterol levels.
- In 2007, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study report by Baba S et al. Twenty five subjects were divided into two groups at random, one group was given a daily dose of sugar, while the other was given a daily dose of cocoa powder as well as sugar for 12 weeks. Baseline tests of participants were taken at the beginning and at the end of the 12 week experiment. At the end of those 12 weeks, participants who were given a portion of cocoa reported a 9% decline in their LDL cholesterol levels and a 24% increase in HDL cholesterol levels.
10. Improves Brain Health:
Dark chocolate enhances brain health as well as makes one smarter. How the 90s kids wish their parents had known this then! Every 90s kid would have received a serving of chocolate everyday without fail! It is a little stupendous thing to believe but really, the flavonoids in dark chocolate enhance memory, reduce inflammation as well as aid in the faster recovery from injuries related to brain.
In 2000, European Journal of Epidemiology published a study report by Commenges et al on the risks of flavonoids and the risks of dementia. The observational study lasted for 5 years and comprised of over 1000 participants aged above 65 years of age. Each participant was given a portion of dark chocolate, believed to be rich in dark flavonoids. At the end of the five year study, the researchers concluded that high levels of flavonoids have an inverse effect on the development of dementia.
In 2013, the Neuroscience and Behavioral Review published a study report by Sokolov et al. who studied the neurobiological effects of flavonols present in cocoa on behaviour and cognition. The study concluded that flavonols accumulate in hippocampus of the brain and have two pronged effects: i) Long term where they protect the brain from age related damage like memory loss, dementia and so on. ii) Better blood flow to enhance present coordination, information processing as well as improvement in memory.
A Brief History of Chocolate:
Chocolate was widely popular among the Mayans and Aztecs, but it wasn’t the chocolate as we know. It was a drink made from powdered cocoa beans, mixed with water, and allowed to ferment. It was bitter but was highly revered. In the 400 BC, Aztec world cocoa beans were so valuable they were used as currencies. People would drink chocolate, a special preparation on ritual days to appease the Gods. Legend also has it, that human sacrifices were given this drink, mixed with a tinge of the last sacrifice’s blood to take them out of their melancholy and encourage their participation in traditional dances, leading to the sacrifice. It was widely believed by the Aztecs that the cocoa tree was handed down to mankind by their king and god called “Quetzalcoatl”. This act of the God had angered the other Gods and he was cast out, for the longest time the MesoAmericans believed that Quetzalcoatl would return to MesoAmerica one day.
It was this belief, that led to the discovery of chocolate. When the spanish explorer Habanero Cortes landed in the then Aztec lands (now known as Latin America), the acting ruler, King Montezuma was convinced that Cortes was their God Quetzalcoatl. King Montezuma threw a feat to honour the spanish man and served him the traditional chocolate drink, which was bitter and usually flavoured with spices like chili peppers. Legend has it that in the 16th century, Spaniard and his aids despised the drink at first, because of its uncharacteristic bitter taste which didn’t suit the spanish taste buds.
He, however, brought the fruit to Spain, where sugar or cane juice or honey were added to it, making it suit the spanish taste buds. The spanish kept the recipe of this chocolate drink secret for nearly seventy years, by which time, chocolate had spread to other parts of the world. The church received chocolate with hostility, claiming that a drink which kept one energised all day, as well as acted as an aphrodisiac was surely a drink made through witchcraft. For the longest time the church condemned the drinking of chocolate but in the end, the church had to bow down to chocolate which had rapidly become a favourite with spanish women, who were the most loyal members of the church.
The exotic chocolate drink, once made exclusively for the spanish king and other nobility, had travelled through social classes to reach the masses by the turn of the 19th century and as 20th century rolled out, it had reached every commoner’s household and had become a part of their desserts. Through the centuries, the drink introduced by Habanero had faced many changes and modifications. At some point in its journey, a dutch chemist discovered how to split cocoa powder and cocoa butter. The powder would be further used to create chocolate bars.
When powdered milk was discovered, someone had the brilliant idea of adding powdered milk to chocolate powder, which led to the discovery milk chocolate.
Over the years, as chocolate companies and market grew, more and more parts of the chocolate fruit started being used to make chocolate, however, they were also deemed to be substandard. But, the trend started changing when more and more people started preferring handmade chocolates, rather than company based products. This led to a subculture in the chocolate industry, where the global markets were ruled by corporates, however, the local markets were filled with local chocolatiers. In India, the culture of chocolate boutiques has only just started gaining momentum, there have been a few chocolate boutiques over the years but India recently gained the money and exposure to international culture of chocolate eating, leading to a rise in chocolate boutiques all over the metropolitans and one hoped that this trend continues.
On What Date is the World Chocolate Day Celebrated?
There are several chocolate days celebrated throughout the world, but an international consensus has been reached on July 7 of every year. No one knows why this day was picked, its significance, maybe this was the day the western world truly discovered the beauty of chocolate or even how it is celebrated. If you ask us, we would ask you to go pick out some dark chocolate and gift them to your near and dear ones, as well as save some for yourself because, like the name “Theobroma” for chocolate suggests, it truly is the “food of the Gods”.
News on Benefits of Chocolate:
The Super-mineral for all Women: Magnesium
– 9th July 2018
Studies over the years have shown that magnesium is the superhero and best friend all women need when they are suffering from all menstruation related blues. It has been proven through several clinical trials and studies have proved that magnesium helps prevent bloating during periods. It also helps suppress the pre- and post- menstrual mood swings. In fact, magnesium helps calm the nerves down during the menstrual cycle time, calming a woman better. Magnesium also helps the body in relax and let go off stress which helps regulate the ovulation and menstruation process.
According a recent study, magnesium regulates PCOS symptoms and helps the body in managing it within 12 weeks. It is noteworthy that magnesium also helps improve insulin sensitivity which is negatively affected by PCOS. Magnesium also lowers the concentration of androgens in a woman who is suffering from PCOS.
It has also been proven in studies that magnesium helps manage mood swings and other symptoms of the peri-menopausal state, not to mention that post-menopause magnesium can contribute to bone strength and overall health.
The alarming bit of information was published by The British Medical Journal, where a study revealed that 10 out of 11 healthy women suffer from a magnesium deficiency, which in turn leads to several menstrual health issues in women.
Thus, women should take more magnesium rich foods and guess which food has an abundance of magnesium?
Yes, you guessed right! Dark chocolate is abundantly rich in magnesium, in fact, a chocolate craving generally indicates magnesium deficiency. Research also shows that women need additional quantities of magnesium apart from the amount they get from their food. All the more reason to enjoy some dark chocolate guilt-free!