dark chocolate in your diet

Dark Chocolate Health Benefits

Many people wonder if they should be eating dark chocolate.  And yes, it’s heartening to know that a moderate amount of dark chocolate consumed a few times per week can help you in your efforts to get healthier and improve your health in many areas. The miracle ingredient in dark chocolate is antioxidant and nutrient rich cacao. Cacao in dark chocolate provides a host of health benefits including weight loss by influencing various metabolic processes inside your body which is why dark chocolate is a healthy food.

Dark Chocolate Health Benefits

According to Charles Mueller, clinical assistant professor of nutrition at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, “Cocoa beans are not unlike red peppers, green peppers and broccoli and stuff like that. They are full of phytochemicals that are good for you.”

Dark chocolate can help in lowering your Body Mass Index (a measure of obesity) through the following mechanisms:

Reduce Sugar Spikes With Dark Chocolate

Cacao rich, dark chocolate is more like a whole food, which supplies carbohydrate, protein, fiber and heart-healthy fat to your body. The nutritional composition (fats, fiber, and protein) and antioxidants content of cacao has an influence on your body’s metabolism. So, when you eat dark chocolate it reduces digestion and absorption of fats and carbohydrates, and in turn lowers chances of sugar spikes inside your body. As a result you experience a feeling of fullness for longer period of time and lesser food cravings for unhealthy (sweet, salty or fatty) snack foods between meals.  

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Food contains known essential vitamins, minerals, and “sub-nutrients” along with some very intriguing conditionally essential nutrients (like lycopenes and ellagic acid) that can bring us beyond surviving a life of chronic illness into thriving with optimal health and vitality.

Dark Chocolate Helps Controls Appetite

Ghrelin is a hormone produced inside your body to increase your appetite. Even the smell of dark chocolate can cause a reduction in ghrelin.

Some studies suggest cacao has monoamine oxidase enzyme inhibitors (MAO) and coumarin that work as appetite suppressants. Dark chocolate also contains saturated fat but those are not bad for you. In fact, you need healthy fats when you are trying to lose weight, as these keep you full for longer and help in controlling your appetite.

Better Regulation of Blood Glucose

When blood sugar rises inside your body, pancreas secretes insulin to escort extra blood glucose into the fat cells. However, repeated release of insulin due to consumption of high carbohydrate and sugary diet can cause insulin resistance in your cells. Insulin-resistance make people lose the ability to feel full, as these nutrition deprived cells keep on sending signals to get more food.

Additionally, high insulin levels in the blood also turn off the fat-burning mechanisms of your body, which also leads to weight gain. Various nutrients found in cacao significantly increase the insulin sensitivity of your cells. So, when you eat dark chocolate it reduces serum insulin levels and helps in better regulation of your blood glucose levels.

Dark Chocolate May Reduce Emotional Overeating

On psychological level when people feel stressed their body triggers release of cortisol. This hormone causes their body to secrete more insulin, which leads to overeating and a tendency to increase abdominal fat. Cacao has antioxidants polyphenols and other chemicals (phenylethylamine (PEA), anandamide and theobromine) that boost your mood naturally by stimulating your brain to release natural pain and stress relieving chemicals. This feeling of euphoria promotes an overall sense of well-being and alleviates depression.

It’s heartening to know that a moderate amount of dark chocolate can be very healthy for you!

Consistent consumption of moderate amount of dark chocolate also found helpful in reducing excretion of cortisol. So, when you eat dark chocolate you feel more peaceful and contended, which in turn reduce your chances to seek and eat unhealthy (sweet, salty or fatty) comfort foods.

A study in the Journal of Proteome Research looked at the effects of eating 1.4 ounces (40 grams) of dark chocolate every day for two weeks on blood and urine measures of stress in 30 healthy adults. The results showed that eating dark chocolate daily reduced stress hormone levels in those who had high anxiety levels.

Dark Chocolate Stimulates the Mind and Body

Studies show that dark chocolate also have a stimulating effect on your body that makes you more likely to move and burn more calories in the process.

Lower Body Mass Index (BMI)

Research has also shown that people who regularly consume dark chocolate tend to be slimmer. In one study when a Pennsylvania State University researcher looked at the diet, calorie intake and body mass index (BMI) of healthy adult women and men of all ages, people who ate dark chocolate a few times per week were, on average, had lower BMI than those who ate it occasionally. This study suggests that chocolate contains antioxidant compounds especially catechins that have metabolism-boosting benefits. So, when you eat dark chocolate these compounds help you improve your lean muscle mass and favor weight loss rather than fat synthesis.

In another study researchers have found a group of compounds called oligomeric procyanidins (PCs) in dark chocolate that is most effective for preventing weight gain and obesity. In this study mice, who were fed oligomeric PCs had the lowest fat mass, lowest body weight and were least likely to develop impaired glucose tolerance and insulin resistance, despite eating a high-fat diet.

Nutrient Deficiency or Disease?

Other Reasons Why Dark Chocolate Should be in Your Diet

Dark chocolate is a good addition to your healthy diet plan to lose weight.  “Eat dark chocolate, not white chocolate,” says researcher Mee Young Hong, PhD, associate professor at San Diego State University. She compared dark and white chocolate, looking at health effects, such as improving cholesterol. Dark chocolate was the clear winner, she says.

Exposure to pollution, unhealthy foods and stress release free radical activity inside your body which can cause serious damage in the form of premature aging and chronic degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. Cocoa in dark chocolate has one of the highest levels of polyphenols that exhibit excellent antioxidant capacity to cease this free radical damage.

Dark Chocolate Health Benefits

These antioxidants in dark chocolate help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by reducing inflammation and plaque formation in the arteries, improving circulation and blood flow to the heart and lowering of blood pressure. Antioxidants in dark chocolate also helps in promoting healthy heart and brain function, slowing down the effects of aging on your skin, improving your vision and may aid in cancer prevention.

So, don’t feel guilty when you indulge in your cravings for this delicious treat. However, moderation is the key to improving and maintain health and receiving the maximum health benefit from dark chocolate. Stick to dark chocolate that contains at least 70 percent cacao and consume it in moderation (an ounce) three days a week and beware of the sugar.

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