Chocolate is full of antioxidant power that can give you substantial health benefits such as lowered blood pressure and reduced stress.
Not all chocolate is created equally, so it’s important to know what to look out for when choosing your next candy bar.
The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry published a study ranking the types of chocolate according to antioxidant power. Cocoa powder was at the top of the list followed by unsweetened baking chocolate and dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa powder.
As a general rule, the more processed the chocolate is, the worse it is for your body. Milk chocolate is the most processed version you can buy and offers little antioxidant benefits.
If your chocolate contains high fructose corn syrup, as many do, you risk losing out on all of its potential health benefits. Fructose breaks down into waste products in your body, one of which is uric acid. Uric acid spikes your blood pressure and hinders nitric oxide production in your blood vessels.
How the “Right” Chocolate Delivers a Nutritional Punch
- Improves insulin sensitivity
- Chocolate’s antioxidant epicatechin can protect your nerve cells from damage
- Resveratrol, another antioxidant found in chocolate, is known to help protect your nervous system
One meta-analysis on the effects of chocolate on cardiovascular health compiled results from 7 different studies. It determined that chocolate consumption could cut your risk of cardiovascular disease by 37% and stroke by 29%.
In yet another meta-analysis conducted in the UK, it was concluded that eating chocolate produced lower insulin resistance. The analysis also found that it reduced blood pressure, increased blood vessel elasticity, and slightly reduced LDL cholesterol.
If you are looking to get the most benefits out of chocolate, you should try it raw, which has a bitter taste. If you find that raw chocolate isn’t for you, try choosing a chocolate bar that has been minimally processed. Look for higher cacao content and lower sugar. The darker the chocolate, the greater percentage of cacao the bar has. Go for dark chocolate with at least 85% cacao and make sure it is organic to avoid the genetically engineered variety.
Most health food stores, including Whole Foods offer raw or minimally processed chocolate. You can also find them online at amazon.com.
Diets that force you to give up your favorite foods most often end in failure. Adding healthy alternatives to foods you enjoy such as chocolate will keep you satisfied and will help control your cravings.