Updated: May 23
Chocolate comes from the tree Therobroma cacao, meaning food of the gods in Greek. Originating in Mexico, chocolate was first used.
Some of the health benefits of consuming dark chocolate:
Lower risk of heart failure. In a study reported in Circulation: Heart Failure, a journal of the American Heart Association, Swedish women who regularly ate a small amount of dark chocolate lowered their risk of heart failure by 32 percent.
Brain protection. Researchers at John Hopkins University discovered a compound called epicatechin in chocolate that increases cellular signals known to shield nerve cells from damage in the brain. This compound was found to protect the brain from damage after a stroke and provide preventive protection as well.
Lowers risk of cardiovascular disease. Scientists discovered Kuna Indians living on the islands off of the cost of Panama who regularly drink a bitter cocoa drink were protected from heart problems.
Raises HDL, or “good” cholesterol and lowers LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. Scientists found the polyphenols in chocolate were found to raise the body’s production of high-density lipoprotein (apolipoprotein A) cholesterol and decreasing apolipoprotein B, the main component of “bad” cholesterol in both the liver and the intestine providing further defense against cardiovascular disease.
Significantly reduces blood pressure. Researchers from the University of Adelaide, Australia found the Flavanols in chocolate reduced blood pressure by 5mm Hg systolic lowered the risk of a cardiovascular event by 20% over five years.
Cocoa is rich in antioxidants. In fact, cocoa contains twice the amount of the flavonoids found in red wine and five times the amount in green tea. The get the most benefits from chocolate without excessive sugar or fat, which cause weight gain and detract from chocolate’s benefits, look for chocolate that lists cocoa solids (unsweetened chocolate) first on the ingredients list. Do not let the label of “dark chocolate” persuade you that it must be good. This label is subjective and does not take into account the amount of added fat or sugar. In fact, chocolate may legally be labeled as “dark” in the United States with only 15% chocolate. In Switzerland, it must contain at least 30% chocolate to be labeled as dark.
One of my favorite brands that is inexpensive and easy to find at your local grocery is Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips. These little delicates yield only 80 calories and 6 grams of fat per serving of 16 chips. Enjoy!