Are you a chocoholic? That’s not the smartest question in the world because, let’s face it, everybody loves chocolate. While chocolate is usually perceived as unhealthy, it is associated with a wide array of health benefits. Of course, to experience these benefits the choice of chocolate matters. While regular milk chocolate isn’t as healthy, dark chocolate is considered a superfood. Want to know how eating dark chocolate can benefit your brain and overall health? Keep reading.
1. Regulates blood pressure
According to the CDC, about 75 million adults in the United States have high blood pressure or hypertension. More precisely, 32% of the US population has high blood pressure or 1 in 3 adults. So, how can chocolate help you probably wonder? It contains flavanols which stimulate the endothelium, the lining of the arteries, to produce nitric oxide. According to a paper from the Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, dietary flavanols prevent oxidative stress. One of the most important roles of nitric oxide is to send signals to arteries to relax. As a result, the resistance to blood flow is lowered thus regulating blood pressure. A study published in JAMA showed that inclusion of dark chocolate in the diet reduces blood pressure and improves the formation of vasodilative nitric oxide.
2. Sharper memory
Believe it or not, dark chocolate can also improve your memory. One study included healthy participants aged between 50 and 69 who were supposed to drink a mixture high in antioxidants called cocoa flavanols (found in cocoa of course and dark chocolate) for three months. In the end, scientists discovered that those who drank this mixture scored higher on memory tests than individuals who took low-flavanol mixture. On average, those who drank high-flavanol mixture performed like people two to three decades younger on the study’s memory test, the New York Times reports. Now that you know how to improve memory in an easy manner, all you have to do is to buy dark chocolate.
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3. Dark chocolate can make you happy
Dark chocolate stimulates the production of endorphins or feel-good chemicals which bind to opiate receptors in the brain and create the feeling of euphoria similar to the one joggers get from “runner’s high.” It is also important to mention that dark chocolate is the main source of anandamide, a naturally occurring compound called the bliss molecule. Plus, a study whose findings were published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology revealed that participants who drank a polyphenol-rich chocolate drink once a day reported feeling calmer and more content than those who didn’t.
4. Better blood flow to the brain
Dark chocolate provides a variety of benefits to your brain such as better memory, mood, and so on, and the reason you experience them is due to improved blood flow to the brain. One study showed that flavanol-rich cocoa found in dark chocolate has a tremendous potential to increase the cerebral blood flow to gray matter. This also means that dark chocolate has the potential for treatment of vascular impairment including dementia and stroke, and also for management of cardiovascular health in general.
5. Raises HDL cholesterol
Cocoa powder was found to decrease oxidized LDL or bad cholesterol in men significantly. Besides lowering bad cholesterol, dark chocolate can also help you increase levels of HDL or good cholesterol. The primary reason why eating dark chocolate can help lower LDL cholesterol is because it is rich in potent antioxidants that reach the bloodstream and protect lipoproteins from oxidative damage.
6. Skin protection
The bioactive compounds from dark chocolate are also good for your skin. The flavonols protect the largest organ of your body from sun-induced damage, improve blood flow to the skin, and increase hydration and skin density.
The minimum erythemal dose (MED) is the lowest amount of UVB rays required to cause redness on the skin about 24 hours after the exposure. Why is this important? It’s important because a study of 30 people discovered that the MED more than doubled after consuming dark chocolate high in flavanols for 12 weeks. While dark chocolate offered photoprotection, the conventional chocolate had no such effect.
7. Improved cognitive abilities
A research from the journal Hypertension showed that cocoa has the potential to improve cognitive functions significantly. The same study also found that dark chocolate improves verbal fluency and a few other factors associated with cognitive impairment. Since chocolate also contains a certain level of caffeine, it boosts brain health, memory, mood, and concentration.
8. Supports good intestinal bacteria, helping your brain
This is probably one of the most unusual benefits of dark chocolate, but most people don’t know is that it increases beneficial bacteria in the intestines. A study whose findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition presented the first evidence that cocoa flavanols in dark chocolate affect the growth of gut microflora. These findings suggest the probiotic effects associated with dark chocolate.
There’s more, the most prevalent good bacteria in your gut, Lactobacilli, and Bifidobacteria, also act as antioxidants protecting your brain from damage induced by free radicals. The intestinal microbiota influences brain chemistry, according to a research from Gastroenterology.
Dark chocolate is considered as a superfood for a reason; it’s abundant in various nutrients and antioxidants that not only improve your overall health but brain power as well. If you don’t have a habit of eating dark chocolate, it’s time to start for a healthy living.
Sophie Addison is a popular blogger and skincare expert. She is very passionate about writing on skincare and beauty. She is an active contributor to many health and lifestyle blogs including glozine lifestyle. She has posted articles on tips for fine lines and wrinkles, best eye creams, weight loss and fitness news. Apart from work she likes gardening and listening music. You can also contact her on Facebook, and Pinterest.