Croc, hands break the chocolate bar and bring a small square to the mouth. The fascinating scent envelops you even before tantalizing your taste buds, announcing the delicacy that slowly melts, becomes creamy and releases all its aromas. Chocolate is a pleasure for the senses, but when we taste it our health also benefits. Today we are talking about the properties of chocolate based on the most recent scientific research. In the following we will always refer to dark chocolate, with a cocoa content of at least 70%.
The manufacturing processes to which cocoa beans are subjected to obtain chocolate lead to an inevitable reduction of its antioxidants originally present. However, the final product continues to be characterized by an interesting content of phenolic compounds, which give chocolate the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular properties for which it is known . Not only that, dark chocolate provides more fiber than the milk chocolate version. For the most part these are insoluble fibres, useful for combating weight gain and type 2 diabetes . Dark chocolate contains magnesium, a mineral that helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure and relax muscles, it also provides copper, iron and potassium .
Chocolate, the elixir of life
Eating chocolate extends your life, did you know that? This delicious piece of news comes from a very recent study, which showed that those who consume one to three servings of chocolate per week, one serving is approximately 30 grams of chocolate, have a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease and dementia with a fatal outcome (Sun et al, J Acad Nutr Diet, Jun 2023). This research is in line with another previous study, which showed that, in the long term, those who consume chocolate at least twice a week have a 66% lower risk of developing fatal heart disease than those who do not consume chocolate . Not only that, eating chocolate at least once a week protects against the risk of diabetes, with a 35% reduction in the probability of developing this disease .
Chocolate against inflammation
Dark chocolate also helps to combat inflammation. In particular, consuming 40 grams of 70% dark chocolate, three times a week for 2 months, made it possible to reduce circulating pro-inflammatory substances. These results have also been observed in people with kidney problems and a high level of inflammation and free radicals . If you eat chocolate every day, 20 grams per day are enough to reduce the values of circulating pro-inflammatory substances as much as possible .
The health drink
A drink prepared with 2.5 grams of cocoa powder and around 40 grams of berries, given by a mixture of blueberries, raspberries and redcurrants, has been shown to protect heart health thanks to the synergy between anthocyanins from berries and phenols from cocoa. In particular, after 3 months of regular intake of this drink it was possible to observe an increase in good HDL cholesterol and a reduction in triglycerides, but also a reduction in diastolic blood pressure .
Chocolate puts you in a good mood and counteracts pain
And then eating chocolate is also good for your mood. In fact, according to a scientific study, compared to those who consume other types of sweets and candies, those who have the habit of regularly consuming dark chocolate have a lower probability of experiencing depression and loneliness and are happier. This has also been observed in the elderly . For this beneficial action on mood, we must thank the prebiotic action of dark chocolate, capable of supporting the intestinal microbiota and regulating mood . Finally, consuming chocolate, without exaggerating, helps to feel less pain, especially if it is of a muscular type, it is believed to be due to a synergy between the pleasant aroma and the action of antioxidants .
Chocolate for brain health
Regular consumption of dark chocolate improves cognitive function, even in young people. In fact, eating a moderate amount of chocolate has been shown to reduce reaction times and has allowed us to improve, up to 6 times, the language and executive function, which is the set of skills aimed at planning and managing time, controlling emotions, using acquired information and solving problems .
Dark chocolate does not make you fat
Moderate consumption, without excess, of dark chocolate does not make you fat, on the contrary. Studies have shown that the aroma of chocolate leads to a feeling of satiety and a reduction in a hormone, called ghrelin. An increase in ghrelin is instead associated with an increase in appetite and fat mass .
One chocolate for many flavors
A bar of dark chocolate can be made even tastier if other ingredients are added to the chocolate, which makes this food even healthier, since the properties of the cocoa are combined with those of the ingredients used. For example, the addition of mulberries has been shown to make chocolate rich in anthocyanins, which are powerful antioxidant and anticancer substances, also able to fight atherosclerosis. And if sea buckthorn is combined with dark chocolate the result is an antioxidant synergy, while if lemon balm is added the product supports the immune system, protects the liver and kidneys and combats diabetes. Dark chocolate with cinnamon is anti-diabetic, counteracts neurodegeneration, cardiovascular diseases and cellular degeneration . And it didn't end there. Now on the market you can also find dark chocolate with probiotics, a unique combination in which chocolate acts as a vehicle for probiotics, capable of protecting the intestinal microbiota and counteracting cellular degeneration .
Dark chocolate, warnings
Dark chocolate provides important benefits and is delicious. Precisely for this reason, however, the risk is of eating too much and this is not good! Chocolate should be eaten in moderation, even if it is dark, and should be eaten especially during the active hours of the day, avoiding the evening. In this way there is no weight gain and sleep is not disturbed. In fact, chocolate contains substances, such as caffeine and theobromine, which stimulate the central nervous system and the heart and are therefore not suitable to be taken before going to sleep .