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Chocolate lovers rejoice! Consumption of dark chocolate can reduce stress and inflammation, and may even boost your mood, immunity and memory, according to a latest study. The researchers have said that this could be due to the high concentration of cacao - a major source of flavonoids, present in dark chocolates.
Flavonoids are potent antioxidants that are known to support cognitive function, endocrine system and cardiovascular health, say the researchers.
"For years, we have looked at the influence of dark chocolate on neurological functions from the standpoint of sugar content -- the more sugar, the happier we are," said Lee S. Berk, from Loma Linda University in California, US.
"This is the first time that we have looked at the impact of large amounts of cacao in doses as small as a regular-sized chocolate bar in humans over short or long periods of time, and are encouraged by the findings," added Berk.
Lee S. Berk was the lead investigator in two new research studies, which showed that the higher the concentration of cacao, the more positive impact it has on cognition, mood, immunity, and memory.
Let's have a look at the health benefits of eating dark chocolates.
1. Protects From Disease-causing Free Radicals
Dark chocolate has the ability to fight against free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms that can damage cells, causing illness and ageing. Dark chocolate contains antioxidants that can neutralize free radicals and protect the body from their damage. Antioxidants include phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals. And the higher the cacao percentage in dark chocolate, the more awesome antioxidants you will consume.
2. Prevents Cancer
You may find it surprising that dark chocolates can help ward off cancer. That's the reason, it's called a cancer-fighting food. According to the American Cancer Institute, dark chocolate's rich supply of flavonoids may play a major role in cancer prevention. But, the studies regarding this are still emerging. However, the evidence is limited but suggestive.
3. Lowers The Risk Of Heart Disease
The compounds present in dark chocolates appear to be highly protective against the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol. Flavonols have a very positive effect on cardiovascular health by helping lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to the heart and brain, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Also, the flavonols reduce blood clotting risks, this can actually lower the risk of blood clots and stroke.
4. Good For The Brain
Dark chocolate is known to improve cognitive function and thus can reduce stress, depression and inflammation. Cacao has the powerful ability to improve cognitive function in elderly people with mental impairment. Daily intake of flavonols-rich foods like dark chocolates, wine, and tea are associated with better performance across multiple cognitive abilities.
5. Aids In Diabetes
Dark chocolates are known to help control diabetes, lower blood pressure of the hypertensive diabetics. The higher the cocoa content in dark chocolates, the less sugar content it has. This is very good for diabetics and they can consume very small amounts of dark chocolate per day.
Health Benefits Of Cocoa Powder
The chocolate-making process starts with cocoa/cacao beans. Cacao beans are dried and roasted, then ground into a paste. From this paste, cocoa butter can be extracted, leaving the dry cocoa powder behind. A combination of the cocoa powder and cocoa butter is used to make dark chocolate or any kind of other chocolates.
Have a look at the health benefits of cocoa powder:
1. Low Calories & High In Fibre
Depending on the brand, one tablespoon of cocoa powder has only about 10 calories. It contains less fat, 3 grams of carbohydrates and 1 gram of protein. And the fibre content is up to 2 grams per tablespoon. Fibre is necessary for proper bowel movements, and cocoa powder is one of the simplest and delicious ways to increase the intake of fibre.
2. Rich In Minerals
Cocoa powder contains essential minerals like iron, magnesium, manganese and zinc. Iron is an important mineral responsible for carrying oxygen in the body, making red blood cells and supports the immune system. Manganese metabolises nutrients and acts as an antioxidant throughout the body. Magnesium provides energy and helps in maintaining your heart's rhythm. Zinc supports the immune system by developing new cells in the body.
3. Natural Antidepressant
The neurotransmitter phenethylamine present in cocoa powder acts as a mood booster and it's a natural antidepressant. It boosts natural opiates in the body called endorphins, and serotonin, which provides happiness and maintains overall health.
The presence of epicatechin and catechin, which are two plant-based substances called flavonoids are present in cocoa powder. Both these plant-based substances prevent systematic inflammation by functioning as antioxidants. Epicatechin helps in relaxing the blood vessels, resulting in improved blood flow and in lowering blood pressure.
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