The average American consumes roughly 12 pounds of chocolate each year, and over $75 billion is spent annually worldwide on chocolate. (1) There is a lot of chocolate eating going on regularly, which is why I want to help you make the smart, healthy choice. That way you can have your chocolate without guilt and with health benefits of dark chocolate to boot!
To melt: Dark chocolate should be heated gradually to prevent scorching. This may be done on a stove top on low heat or in a microwave oven on 50% power. Break chocolate into smaller pieces and place in pan or microwave to heat. Stir continually (or after each minute) to ensure even heating. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of melted dark chocolate over oatmeal, yogurt, or fresh fruit for an easy healthful snack.
By now you may have heard about antioxidants – in food articles, from health experts or on nutrition labels. You’ve been told to eat foods that are good for your stomach and those that protect your heart but what about replenishing the cells that make up these critical organs in our body? The buzzword is antioxidants. Let’s begin by understanding some basics.
This ancient grain is trending again and for good reason. Barley is known for its powerful antioxidant properties that make you stronger from within. Also, it has been found that when grains like barley are soaked and sprouted the antioxidant levels increase. Moreover, they become more digestible and it is easier for the body to absorb their nutrients.
The ORAC scores above are based on weight. This means that it might not be practical to eat high amounts of all of these antioxidant foods. Other high antioxidant foods not listed above, which are still great sources and highly beneficial, include common foods like tomatoes, carrots, pumpkin seeds, sweet potatoes, pomegranates, strawberries, kale, broccoli, grapes or red wine, squash, and wild-caught salmon. Try to consume at least three to four servings daily of these high antioxidant foods (even more is better) for optimal health.
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The cocoa butter found in dark chocolate contains equal amounts of oleic acid (a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil), stearic and palmitic acids. It’s true that stearic and palmitic acids are forms of saturated fat, but research shows that stearic acid appears to have a neutral effect on cholesterol, which means it doesn’t raise it or lower it. The palmitic acid in dark chocolate can increase cholesterol levels, but thankfully it only makes up about a small portion of the fat in dark chocolate — plus dark chocolate has a lot of great plant nutrients that make up for palmitic acid.
Back when food was way scarcer, our ancient ancestors needed to take every advantage they had to consume high calorie foods. So the human brain evolved to perceive sugar—and fat—as very rewarding, says Schwartz. Today, our brains are still wired for feast or famine, even though you can buy thousands of calories of food for a couple bucks at the local convenience store.
Frequent exposure to high glucose levels diminishes mental capacity, as higher HbA1c levels have been associated with a greater degree of brain shrinkage. Even in those without diabetes, higher sugar consumption is associated with lower scores on tests of cognitive function. These effects are thought to be due to a combination of hyperglycemia, hypertension, insulin resistance, and elevated cholesterol.
A study published in International Journal of Cardiology had subjects either consume a daily dose of flavonoid-rich dark chocolate or non-flavonoid white chocolate for two weeks. The results showed that flavonoid-rich dark chocolate intake significantly improved heart circulation in healthy adults. On the other hand, white chocolate with zero flavonoids to brag about had no positive health effects on the subjects. (6)
Chocolate milk is also something that will make you stronger and healthier in the long run. If you take it at least three times a week after your workout, you will see changes in your body. You will also become stronger. Weights that couldn’t be lifted earlier will now become a little easier than last time. If you gave up too quick while running or swimming, this drink will keep you going.
The antioxidant measurements have been conducted over a period of eight years, from 2000 to 2008. The samples were procured from local stores and markets in Scandinavia, USA and Europe and from the African, Asian and South American continents. Many of the samples of plant material, like berries, mushrooms and herbs, were handpicked. Commercially procured food samples were stored according to the description on the packing and analyzed within four weeks. Handpicked samples were either stored at 4°C and analyzed within three days or frozen at -20°C and analyzed within four weeks. Products that needed preparation such as coffee, tea, processed vegetables etc. were prepared on the day of analysis. Furthermore, all samples were homogenized, dry samples were pulverized and solid samples were chopped in a food processor. After homogenizing, analytical aliquots were weighed. Included in the database are 1113 of the food samples obtained from the US Department of Agriculture National Food and Nutrient Analysis Program. They were collected, homogenized, and stored as previously described . Three replicates were weighed out for each sample. All samples were extracted in water/methanol, except vegetable oils which were extracted in 2-propanol and some fat-rich samples which were extracted in water/2-propanol. The extracts were mixed, sonicated in ice water bath for 15 min, mixed once more and centrifuged in 1.5 mL tubes at 12.402 × g for 2 min at 4°C. The concentration of antioxidants was measured in triplicate of the supernatant of the centrifuged samples.
When you eat excess sugar, the extra insulin in your bloodstream can affect your arteries, part of your body’s circulatory system. It causes their walls to grow faster than normal and get tense, which adds stress to your heart and damages it over time. This can lead to heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. Research also suggests that eating less sugar can help lower blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. Plus, people who eat a lot of added sugar (where at least 25% of their calories comes from added sugar) are twice as likely to die of heart disease as those whose diets include less than 10% of total calories from added sugar.
Studies show that the darker the chocolate, the better. Eat only less-processed chocolate that contains at least 65 percent cacao, recommends Joy DuBost, PhD, RD, an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman. Not only does dark chocolate have a higher concentration of antioxidants than milk chocolate, but milk chocolate is also higher in added sugar and unhealthy fats. Still, the daily dose of antioxidants in dark chocolate doesn’t give you license to indulge in a dessert free-for-all — dark chocolate is still loaded with fat and calories — so eat a max of 1 to 2 ounces a day. If you do, research says you’ll reap these 9 benefits.
I have always loved dark chocolate, and I actually prefer it over other types of chocolate! Because of that, it makes me really excited to hear that there are some health benefits to eating it! It’s interesting how you point out that dark chocolate has antioxidants that stimulate the lining of the arteries so that blood flow can improve. Blood flow is actually something that many people in my family struggle with. I’ll have to suggest they start eating more dark chocolate! I imagine that giving them dark chocolate would be a great gift and also a way to help them out!
But there are lesser-known reasons you should indulge in the (bitter)sweet stuff. Dark chocolate has been scientifically proven to keep your brain sharp, your ticker ticking and your skin shielded from the sun’s harmful rays (yes, really). Dark chocolate can be the key to beating that midday slump, accoriding to a new study from Northern Arizona University found.
For another berry rich in antioxidant power, strawberries are an excellent choice. These berries are another one of the most highly concentrated antioxidant fruits. The antioxidants found in strawberries have been shown to fight carcinogens and LDL, cholesterol that is known to cause heart disease. Strawberries contain, anthocyanins, the antioxidants that protect against cardiovascular diseases. They are also a great source of vitamin C, which protects your body’s cells from free radical damage.
As preventive cardiologist Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City says, “When looking for a sweet snack, a square of dark chocolate might, in fact, be your healthiest choice!” (2) Let’s look at exactly why this expert medical opinion really does ring true and why a little dark chocolate is more than just a tasty treat — with health benefits of dark chocolate that include protection against disease and improved brain and heart health.
Small-scale studies have indicated for quite some time that regular intake of cocoa can have a positive effect in fighting cardiovascular disease. A more recent study on cocoa's cardiovascular benefits, done in 2006, proved this among a larger study group of 470 men, all tested while consuming different daily doses of cocoa. The conclusions were that cocoa does indeed lower the chances and significance of cardiovascular disease.