Simply Chocolate

What You Need To Know About The Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Everyone knows that chocolate is good. It’s tasty, it makes people happy, there are even rumors that it’s good for your health. But is it really? To answer that question, we need to take a closer look at the chemical composition of chocolate.

Like most plants, cocoa beans are full of a substance called flavonoids. In plants, flavonoids act as antioxidants, antimicrobials, photoreceptors, visual attractors, feeding repellants, and light screeners. It has been said that humans who eat plants benefit from the antioxidant activity of the flavonoids they contain because antioxidants have the ability to reduce free radical formation and to scavenge free radicals.

In short, when you ingest things that are full of flavonoids, like, say, broccoli, blueberries, wine, or chocolate, you get a whopping dose of antioxidants which have been said to be incredibly beneficial to our bodies.

And boy does chocolate contain a lot of antioxidants! For a long time, antioxidant levels were measured in something called Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) values. Studies have shown that, per 100 grams, cocoa powder has over 12 times the ORAC value of blueberries, over 53 times the ORAC value of spinach, and over 64 times the ORAC value of red grapes.

The free radical fighting antioxidants in the flavonoids found in chocolate have, in the past, been linked to fighting cancer, improving heart-health, improving cognitive ability, lowering blood pressure, increasing HDL and lowering LDL, and even improving insulin sensitivity in men.

But, before you run out and buy crates of chocolate, you should probably know that in 2012 the USDA concluded a research study that showed, sadly, that the values indicating antioxidant capacity have no relevance to the effects of flavonoids on human health*.

You should also know that, had the study not shown that there’s no actual correlation between antioxidants in chocolate and human health, you would still have needed to ingest around 400 milligrams of cocoa powder per day to benefit from the flavonoids. That’s about 8 bars of dark chocolate or 30 bars of milk chocolate. In those quantities, the milk and sugar also contained in the chocolate would have completely negated the benefits of the antioxidants.

Does that mean we shouldn’t eat any chocolate? No! By all means, indulge. Chocolate is still an incredible mood lifter and a joy to be savored. It’s a wonderful treat that can improve any moment. And while it might not spare you from having to get your annual physical, it’s definitely a wonderful treat to reward yourself for going.

* ORAC Study

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