Why You Should Embrace Chocolate’s Dark Side

For the Love of Chocolate

From fun-sized delights at Halloween and Easter’s infamous bunnies to the surprise treats in the break room, it seems we never run out of reasons to indulge in dark chocolate. As tempting as these little luxuries may be, they certainly don’t help with our desire to live a healthier lifestyle—or do they?

Observational studies of the Kuna Indians living on the Caribbean coast of Panama, whose diets include a high amount of cocoa, show some sweet findings when it comes to the benefits of antioxidant-rich flavanols in dark chocolate. Yes, you read correctly. Dark chocolate, not milk chocolate, may have many positive effects on your health, including lowering blood pressure and fighting heart disease.

The Sweet Study

Hypertension, aka high blood pressure, among the Kuna Indians was rare, despite a high salt intake. However, when some of the Kuna moved to more urban surroundings, their diets changed too. Their usual five cups of antioxidant and flavanol-packed cocoa beverage per day decreased, and studies showed a rise in their blood pressure. They also had much higher rates of death from heart disease, cancer and diabetes than the Kuna who stayed on the island.

While milk may taste great, enjoying it with dark chocolate may mean you lose dark chocolate’s antioxidant benefits.

Why You Should Be Pro-Antioxidants

We hear a lot about antioxidants these days, and like berries and many types of tea, dark chocolate is a delicious source of them. But what are antioxidants exactly?

Antioxidants are chemicals that fight oxidation in our cells and help rid our bodies of free radicals. Free radicals are made by our bodies to process sunlight, food and toxins. Not having enough antioxidants to go to battle for us may increase our risk of things like bad cholesterol.

As we mentioned before, dark chocolate’s antioxidants come from the flavanols in the cocoa bean, which are also what give dark chocolate its rich, distinct flavor. In addition to lowering blood pressure, as suggested by the studies of the Kuna Indians, other findings show that flavanols may also improve blood flow to the brain and heart and lower the chance of blood clots. The benefits just keep on coming!

Dark chocolate is in good company! Tasty foods like cranberries, apples and onions also boast beneficial flavanols.

So How Much Dark Chocolate Is Good for Us?

The health benefits of dark chocolate may be the best news we’ve heard in a long time, but it doesn’t mean we can start replacing our morning eggs with a dark chocolate bar and pouring dark chocolate all over our broccoli at dinner. While more research needs to be done to determine the exact amounts that help us reap dark chocolate’s heart-healthy benefits, we do know we can stop denying our love of dark chocolate.

Try enjoying an ounce of plain dark chocolate a few times a week (if you’re watching your sugar intake, be sure to check with your doctor first), along with other flavanol-packed favorites, like apples, cranberries and onions. Hint: An ounce is equal to one square in a bar of baking chocolate. Choose dark chocolate, of course. Watch out for dark chocolate accompanied by gooey caramel and tempting nougat. Unfortunately, they do not help contribute to our heart health. Hey, we can’t have it all, right?

We hope this helps put even more joy into your next bite of delicious dark chocolate, any time of the year!

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