Sweet, rich and delicious chocolate is something which we all crave from time to time, but did you know there is a world of difference between creamy milk chocolate and the rich bitterness of dark chocolate?
Why does dark chocolate deserve its superfood status?
The old saying; ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’ certainly doesn’t ring true when it comes to the superfood status of dark chocolate. Research is now suggesting that the flavonols in chocolate could help to slightly lower blood pressure, if eaten in moderation as chocolate is high in fat.
A similar study from the Chemistry Central Journal suggests that powdered dark chocolate contained similar antioxidant levels to those of blueberry, cranberry and pomegranate.
For National Cocoa Day, we’ve spoken to the team over at Vitabiotics, who have explained a little bit more about the science behind dark chocolate and heart healthy properties.
What are Flavonoids & Antioxidants?
Flavonoids are compounds that are derived from plants (in this case, the cocoa bean). They are found naturally in many of the foods that we eat as part of a healthy and varied diet.
Cocoa beans (in their natural form) can contain up to 50% of the most important type of Flavonoid called procyanidins.
Did you know: Generally, the more cocoa solids a chocolate bar has, the higher in flavonoids it will be, meaning it will be better for health when eaten in moderation.
The more that the raw cocoa bean is processed (eg: adding fat and sugar), the more flavonoids will be lost in the manufacturing process.
Antioxidants are an essential part of a healthy diet. Dark chocolate contains key antioxidants, similar to those found in fruit. The research from the Chemistry Central Journal as cited above, suggests that some high quality dark chocolate could contain just as many antioxidants as fruit.
Top Tip: Look for organic chocolate with a high cocoa content (above 50%) to avoid losing any of these great benefits.
Can dark chocolate take the ‘bite’ out of stress?
When you feel stressed or anxious it’s because your body has produced some of the hormone Cortisol into your bloodstream. Whilst the release of the hormone cortisol is a normal human reaction, a study from Harvard suggests that elevated cortisol levels over a prolonged period can have negative effects on health.
Studies into the effects of dark chocolate on stress and anxiety found that people who ate 40g of dark chocolate each day over a 2 week period had significantly reduced cortisol levels. The research suggests that dark chocolate could have a long term benefit on stress levels, leading to a happier lifestyle.