Did you ever believe that one day you would be reading that chocolate not only tastes good but is also good for your health as well? Well this is the day. However I do apologize to spoil this sensational information for you, but I need to point out that not all chocolate is healthy. The healthy chocolate is the one that you rarely see on the shelves of your local supermarket. You guessed it; dark chocolate. (I know, the title gave it away in the beginning).
Healthy dark chocolate, the one which contains a minimum of 70% of cocoa (cacao) or more, is listed in the top foods (aka Superfoods) in which you can add to your healthy diet since it is packed with antioxidants. When consumed in moderation, this delicious treat has some very powerful health benefits which are listed below.
Good For Your Heart – One of the health benefits of dark chocolate is that it improves blood flow which also reduces the risk of blood clots. By increasing blood flow, both the heart and the brain will always have a sufficient flow of blood towards them to keep them working normally. The flavonoids present in dark chocolate protect cells from free radicals, which are unstable molecules that damage the body’s cells and organs. Flavonoids also lower blood pressure and reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad one) by up to 10%.
Good For Your Brain – Eating dark chocolate as mentioned above increases blood flow not only to the heart but also to the brain, which boosts alertness and performance for as long as three hours. This mouthwatering confection also causes the release of neurotransmitters (endorphins) which “speak” to the brain feeding it positive information and forming new memories. Just a few bites of dark chocolate is enough for the chemical dopamine to be released which helps you recall people and events.
Helps Control Blood Sugar – By keeping your blood vessels healthy, dark chocolate aids to protect against type 2 diabetes. The flavonoids increase the production of nitric oxide which helps reduce insulin resistance by helping your cells function normally and regain the ability to use your body’s insulin efficiently. This unique type of chocolate also has a low glycemic index which prevents huge spikes in blood sugar levels that can be very dangerous.
Improves Your Mood – Dark Chocolate contains phenylthylamine (PEA) which is the chemical that your brain creates when you feel like you’re in love!! Have you ever experienced the creation of this chemical? PEA encourages your brain to release endorphins and serotonin. Endorphins are know to lessen pain, improve mood and relieve stress, whereby serotonin is the brain’s “feel good” chemical that plays the part in promoting feelings of wellbeing and happiness.
Reduces Stress - A Swiss study, (Switzerland is one of the largest exporters of chocolate that has to be noted) found that eating just 40 grams of dark chocolate every day significantly reduces your levels of cortisol which is the stress hormone. Dark chocolate also contains the chemical serotonin which acts as an antidepressant.
Protects Your Skin From The Sun – A research carried out in London found that people who ate dark chocolate for three months, took twice as long for their skin to redden when exposed to UV, compared to those who ate none. This is due to the flavonoids contained in dark chocolate that increases blood flow to the skin, improving skin complexion but also protecting it.
A Warning Message
Despite the health benefits of dark chocolate you must not forget that it is still chocolate which comes along with its excessive calories. A medium sized dark chocolate bar might not be as fattening as milk chocolate, but can still contain up to 250 calories, so watch your portion sizes. Enjoyed with moderation, you can still add this superfood in your daily diet to reap the health benefits it offers.
NOTE: If you would like to add comments on the above article or if you have any personal opinions and know of other health benefits of dark chocolate, we would be grateful and honored if you shared your thoughts and ideas in the "comment" section below. Adding dark chocolate recipes would also be a big bonus.
Dark Chocolate Orange Cake
3/4 cup powdered sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon Triple Sec (orange-flavored liqueur)
1 tablespoon hot water
Dash of salt
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Powdered sugar (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350°
2. Coat an 8-inch spring form pan with cooking spray; line bottom of pan with parchment or wax paper. Wrap outside of pan with aluminum foil
3. Place 3/4 cup sugar and eggs in a bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed 7 minutes
4. Combine cornstarch and cocoa in a small bowl; set aside. Place juice, liqueur, water, salt, and chocolate in a small glass bowl; microwave at high 1 minute or until almost melted, stirring every 20 seconds until smooth. Add cornstarch mixture; whisk until smooth.
5. Gently stir one-fourth of egg mixture into chocolate mixture; gently fold into remaining egg mixture. Scrape batter into prepared pan.
6. Place pan in a 13 x 9-inch baking pan; add hot water to larger pan to a depth of 1 inch. Bake at 350º for 20 minutes or until top is set. Remove cake pan from water; cool 5 minutes on a wire rack.
7. Loosen cake from sides of pan using a narrow metal spatula; cool to room temperature. Cover and chill at least 4 hours or overnight.
8. Garnish with powdered sugar and rind just before serving, if desired
Approx.calories: 175 per serving
1 cup all-purpose flour (about 4 1/2 ounces)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup egg substitute
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup 1% low-fat buttermilk
1 1/4 ounces dark (70 percent cocoa) chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, and level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; stir with a whisk.
3. Place granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined (about 3 minutes).
4. Add egg substitute and vanilla, beating well. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to granulated sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
5. Fold in chocolate. Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups lined with muffin cup liners. Bake at 350° for 18 minutes or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
6. Remove from pan; cool completely on a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving.
Serves: 12 cupcakes
Approx.calories: 150 per cupcake