Who doesn’t want chocolate? It has that wonderful bittersweet flavour and melt-in-your-mouth goodness that can only be described as bliss. The problem is that many chocolate products in the market are notoriously high in sugar and highly calorific.
There is good news for you, though. A certain kind of chocolate exists that is both delicious and beneficial to your health – dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate has a cocoa content of 70% or higher. The high cacao content adds a slightly bitter taste, but the flavour is much richer. You probably don’t hear this often, but when it comes to chocolate, the more bitter, the better!
When choosing your chocolate, avoiding milk chocolates and white chocolates is a good idea. These types of chocolates contain a lot of pasteurized milk and have a very high sugar content. The sweetness in milk and white chocolates neutralizes the bitterness of cocoa, but it also means that you ingest a whole lot of unhealthy refined sugar.
Here are the top ten reasons why dark chocolate is an epic superfood and great for your health.
Cacao contains powerful antioxidants called flavanols, which enhance circulation by increasing the body’s production of nitric oxide, which in turn relaxes blood vessels and allows greater blood flow (1). Increased circulation decreases soreness after workouts and fuels faster recovery. It also helps you perform better when working out because of the enhanced nutrient delivery.
Dark chocolates contain a natural flavanol compound called epicatechin, which acts as a natural myostatin inhibitor. This compound promotes increased skeletal muscle mass (2). You can get epicatechin from supplements as well.
Anabolism refers to the processes that build complex molecules in the body, including bone density and muscle mass. Anabolic health is linked to testosterone, which is an important hormone responsible for a male sexuality, as well as muscle mass and bone density. As a natural vasodilator (a compound for relaxing and opening up blood vessels), epicatechin also enables the body to produce higher levels of testosterone. To boost its effect, you can take it along with other natural vasodilation boosters.
Research shows that cocoa polyphenols reduce overall stress not only in highly-stressed individuals, but also in healthy individuals. Research published in the International Journal of Health Sciences, a scientific publication of Qassim University, found that consuming one average-sized chocolate candy bar (approximately 1.4 ounces) each day for two weeks reduced the level of stress hormone cortisol in the human body. It also showed a reduction in fight-or-flight hormones, called catecholamines, present in highly stressed people.
Suppressing your appetite may not be the first thing you want to hear if you are trying to gain muscle mass, but it can be particularly helpful if you want to calm and control your late night cravings. A study conducted in Netherlands found that epicatechin can also boost the production of anti-hunger hormones called ghrelin, which signal the part of the brain responsible for hunger that you are satisfied. This would be very beneficial for those who want to resist excessive food intake.
Another health benefit we can get from epicatechin is that our cells become more responsive to the presence of insulin, which means glucose is more efficiently absorbed and used in the body. More efficient glucose utilization means the body responds with higher energy levels for various needs.
If you want a night to remember, dark chocolates could be your ally. Chocolates are natural aphrodisiacs. In fact, according to a study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, women who like chocolates tend to have a higher Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI), causing them to have higher libido and cravings for more sensual nights. This is most likely caused by increased levels of L-arginine, an amino acid found in dark chocolates that increases nitric oxide in the body which may increase sensations to touch, satisfaction, and desire.
Chocolate consumption has long been associated with enjoyment and pleasure. According to a study included in the Journal of Affected Disorders, chocolate consumption could be an effective antidepressant for some people, and its effects are only ephemeral.
Recent studies have shown that dark chocolate also improves fetal growth. Regular consumption of dark chocolates reduces the risk of preeclampsia (a condition which can be fatal for the mother and baby) in women by lowering blood pressure.
Dark chocolate has been known to prevent damage caused by ultraviolet rays, the light emitted by the sun. Too much exposure to the sun damages your skin – it can cause sunburn, or even worse, deadly types of skin cancer. The most effective way to counter this effect is to eat cocoa beans found in health food stores. Since dark chocolate is a natural antioxidant, it can get rid of the damage to your skin caused by UV rays.
Now you may be wondering, “Just how much dark chocolate should I be consuming in order for my body to get the enough nutrients it requires, but at the same time avoid gaining unhealthy fat?”
Well, let’s look at the numbers. A study of nearly 20,000 people concluded that people who eat an average of 6 grams of dark chocolate per day (that’s nearly 0.2 oz daily) had a 39% lower risk of heart attack or stroke.
That would be equivalent to a very small amount — about half of one square of the usual 100g dark chocolate bar. Also, according to a study by Dr. Golomb, an American doctor and researcher, daily consumption in divided doses (2-3 times/day) is probably beneficial so long as you do not go overboard. Don’t eat too many, and more importantly, avoid chocolates with high sugar and/or additive content.
So, if you want to spoil yourself with dark chocolates without feeling guilty, just remember these top ten reasons why eating them will do you good. Experience bliss – and good health – with every bite!
“Alex Eriksson is the founder of AnabolicHealth.com, a men’s health blog dedicated to providing honest and research backed advice for optimal male hormonal health. Anabolic Health aspires to become a trusted resource where men can come and learn how to fix their hormonal problems naturally, without pharmaceuticals. Check out his guide on Manly Foods That Boost Testosterone.”
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