What are Dark Chocolate’s Health Secrets?

Study leader John Finley, a professor in LSU’s department of food science, said, “When these compounds are absorbed by the body, they lessen the inflammation of cardiovascular tissue, reducing the long-term risk of stroke.” Finley said he believes this is the first study to examine dark chocolate’s effects on different types of stomach bacteria. The researchers also found evidence that people could gain even greater health benefits if they eat dark chocolate with solid fruits such as pomegranates and acai.

What are Dark Chocolate’s Health Secrets?

There have been may claims about the antioxidant benefits of consuming dark chocolate. Today there is some pretty conclusive evidence that dark chocolate should be part of your diet. The information provided here is digested from an article by Dr. Mercola. You can check the full article for all the details. Chocolate is derived from the cacao plant, the dark chocolate contains a high concentration of the seeds, popularly referred to cocoa beens. Cocoa ,  on the other hand,  refers to the powder made from roasted, husked, and ground cacao seeds, from which most of the fat has been removed. Most of the most anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich foods  are derived from the powder or the beens.

A seven-study meta-analysis sought to find a link between chocolate consumption and certain cardiometabolic disorders, such as coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Along with those disorders are related problems like hypertension, elevated fasting glucose and triglycerides, high cholesterol, and abdominal obesity. the dark unprocessed raw cacao kinds – actually reduced the risk of such disorders.
In fact, the highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29 percent reduction in stroke compared with the lowest levels! Other research has also shown that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in chocolate may lower your risk of heart attack and stroke considerably.

  • Small amounts of dark chocolate can cut your risk of heart attack because, like aspirin, chocolate has a biochemical effect that reduces the clumping of platelets, which cause blood to clot.  Platelet clumping can be fatal if a clot forms and blocks a blood vessel, causing a heart attack.
  • Specially formulated raw cocoa powder has the potential to prevent cardiovascular disease in diabetics. When diabetic patients were given a special high-flavonol cocoa drink for one month, it brought their blood vessel function from severely impaired to normal. The improvement was actually as large as has been observed with exercise and many common diabetic medications.
  • Researchers also discovered that a compound in dark chocolate, called epicatechin (a flavonoid), may protect your brain after a stroke by increasing cellular signals that shield nerve cells from damage.  A stroke is similar to a heart attack, but occurs when the blood supply to your brain becomes blocked or reduced, as opposed to blocking the blood supply to your heart.

Another one of the ways chocolate may provide cardiovascular benefit is by assisting with nitric oxide metabolism, as described by Ori Hofmekler. Nitric oxide protects your heart by relaxing your blood vessels and thereby lowering your blood pressure.

However, nitric oxide production produces adverse reactions and toxic metabolites, which must be neutralized by your body so they don’t result in oxidative damage to your blood vessel lining (by peroxynitrite oxidation and nitration reactions). Cocoa polyphenols protect your body from these metabolites and help counter the typical age-related decline in nitric oxide production.

In case you were wondering, it’s not only your heart that might benefit from the compounds in cacao and cocoa powder. A wide range of accumulating scientific research has linked its consumption to over 40 distinct health benefits.  While most of you have heard about the importance of antioxidants, a primer might help, beginning with the explanation that the formation of free radicals in your cells can damage your DNA to the point that your risk of developing diseases like Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and cancer are elevated.

This is why the antioxidant polyphenols in chocolate are so valuable, as they have the ability to stop free radical-mediated oxidation. This helps to decrease your risk of those and other diseases by directly interfering with one of the major preventable causes of chronic degenerative diseases.

Chocolate also contains other potent plant “chemicals,” including anandamide, named after the Sanskrit word for “bliss,” which is a neurotransmitter in the brain that temporarily blocks feelings of pain and anxiety. The caffeine and theobromine in chocolate have been shown to produce higher levels of physical energy and mental alertness, and there are likely many more healthy chocolate compounds that have yet to be discovered. The following table highlights just some of the benefits conferred by the cocoa bean.

Anti-inflammatory Anti-carcinogenic Anti-thrombotic, including improving endothelial function Lowers Alzheimer’s risk
Anti-diabetic and anti-obesity Reduction in C-reactive protein Cardioprotective, including lowering blood pressure, improving lipid profile, and helping prevent atrial fibrillation Improved liver function for those with cirrhosis
Neuroprotective Improves gastrointestinal flora Reduces stress hormones Reduces symptoms of glaucoma and cataracts
Slows progression of periodontitis Improves exercise endurance May help extend lifespan Protects against preeclampsia in pregnant women

The video interview below highlites what is a high-quality chocolate and how to determine your optimal chocolate “dose.” In general, it seems preferable to consume smaller amounts of chocolate at more frequent intervals, much like the principle of split dosing for supplements, in order to ensure a steadier stream of nutrients in your bloodstream. According to Dr. Golomb, studies show daily consumption in divided doses (two to three times per day) is probably beneficial, as long as you aren’t going overboard in quantity, and as long as you’re eating high-quality chocolate.

The closer your cocoa is to its natural raw state, the higher its nutritional value. Ideally, your chocolate or cocoa should be consumed raw (cacao). When selecting chocolate, you can optimize its nutritional punch by looking for higher cacao and lower sugar content. In general, the darker the chocolate, the higher the cacao. However, cacao is fairly bitter, so the higher the percentage cacao, the more bitter it is (the flavanols are what make the chocolate bitter, so manufacturers often remove them. But, it’s those flavanols that are responsible for many of chocolate’s health benefits). To counteract the bitterness, most chocolate is sweetened, so it’s a matter of balancing nutritional benefit with palatability.

Although raw cacao is the most nutritious form, most of the health studies to date involve consumption of cocoa or chocolate, not raw cacao. And the results are STILL significantly positive. This fact suggests a good portion of the nutritional benefit of chocolate is retained after processing. Your goal then is to find a chocolate that’s as minimally processed as possible, but still palatable. You don’t want to eliminate too many of the health benefits by eating a product that contains a lot of sugar and chemicals. Choose chocolate with a cocoa/cacao percentage of about 70 or higher.

If you can tolerate the flavor of raw cacao, however, then that’s the absolute best option. Milk chocolate is not a good choice as it contains both pasteurized milk and large quantities of sugar, which will significantly dampen its health benefits. White chocolate is also high in sugar and contains none of the phytonutrients, so it is not a good choice either. Dark chocolate – as high in cacao and as bitter as you can stand — is your best option.

Article Summary

  • Cocoa powder is rich in antioxidants. However, it was thought that these molecules were poorly digested and absorbed due to their large size
  • New research revealed that your gut bacteria breaks down and ferments the components in dark chocolate, turning them into anti-inflammatory compounds that benefit your health
  • Beneficial gut microbes including Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria “feasted” on chocolate, creating anti-inflammatory compounds that may reduce inflammation of cardiovascular tissue
  • A wide range of accumulating scientific research has linked chocolate consumption to over 40 distinct health benefits
  • The closer your cocoa is to its natural raw state, the higher its nutritional value; ideally, your chocolate or cocoa should be consumed raw (cacao)

check out the article source: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/03/31/dark-chocolate-health-benefits.aspx

photo source    http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4081/4924770902_29ca0444a2_s.jpg


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