Advertising
Advertising

15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

You have probably heard others talk about the benefits of eating foods packed with nutrients and antioxidants as a way to promote overall health. I would be willing to bet that chocolate, and more specifically dark chocolate, has come up in these conversations. While it seems almost too good to be true, the health benefits to eating a moderate amount of dark chocolate are backed by science. So rest assured, this is one instance where you can have your cake (or in this case, dark chocolate) and eat it too.

1. For centuries, dark chocolate has been long been associated with health benefits

Incas referred to a beverage made from cocoa as “the drink of the gods”, which eventually gave rise to its scientific name Theobroma cacoa, derived from the Greek words theo (god) and broma (drink). Aztec Emperor Montezuma stated that cocoa “builds up resistance and fights fatigue” and can “permit a man to walk for a whole day without food”.

2. Dark chocolate is rich in a class of phytonutrients called flavonoids

Flavonoids are one of the most common and largest groups of phytonutrients found in the diet. These phytonutrients are chemicals found in plants that promote health To date more than 4,000 varieties have been identified. Dark chocolate and cocoa contain specific flavonoids called flavan-3-ols (or flavanols).

3. Dark chocolate is chock(olate) full of other nutrients

A small bar of 70-85% dark chocolate, let’s say 50 grams/1.75 ounces, contains

Advertising

  • nearly 6 grams of fiber for digestive health
  • a third of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) for iron to promote cardiovascular fitness
  • over a quarter of your RDA for magnesium for skeletal health
  • nearly 50% of your RDA for copper and manganese, important for antioxidant functions

It is also important to note, that a serving of dark chocolate contains 300 calories, so it is best to consume dark chocolate in moderation. And don’t worry! You can still get these healthy effects from smaller servings; just try to make sure you are eating dark chocolate that 70-90% cocoa.

4. Flavan-3-ols/flavonols in dark chocolate lower blood pressure

Research has shown that after consumption of dark chocolate, antioxidant capacity in blood increased, which led to the opening of blood vessels and decreased blood pressure.

5. Dark chocolate decreases “bad” cholesterol and increases “good” cholesterol levels

You may have heard LDL, HDL, or VLDL. But what does this alphabet soup mean to your cholesterol and overall health? Briefly, cholesterol is made up low-density lipoprotein (LDL), high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL). LDL is considered the “bad” cholesterol that can build up on the walls of arteries, while “HDL” is called the good cholesterol, which can block LDL from building up on arteries. A variety of studies have shown that both dark chocolate and cocoa powder reduced LDL and oxidized LDL levels and increased HDL levels.

6. Dark chocolate reduces platelet aggregation

Platelets are components found in blood cells that help to form clots. While clots are critical in stopping excessive bleeding, hyperactive platelets can contribute to coronary heart disease. A study investigating the effects of white, milk, or dark chocolate showed that dark chocolate inhibited platelet accumulation, while white and milk chocolate had no effect on platelet clustering.

Advertising

7. Risk for cardiovascular disease is slashed by dark chocolate

Points #4-6 may be all well and good, but does dark chocolate broadly impact hearth health? Turns out, it does. A study researching the long-term diet habits in nearly 500 elderly men revealed that cocoa intake was inversely correlated with cardiovascular disease and mortality rates that were assessed 15 years after the study began. Another epidemiological study in the US general population demonstrated that consumption of chocolate was inversely related to coronary heart disease and that eating chocolate 5 times per week lowered the coronary heart disease risk by 57%. So go ahead and enjoy a daily piece of dark chocolate.

8. Moderate dark chocolate consumption lowers the risk for stroke

What about stroke? An analysis of five different studies demonstrated a nearly 20% stroke risk reduction when comparing those defined as high consumers (~ 62.9 grams/week or a tenth of a pound for our non-metric friends out there) to those defined as low consumers of dark chocolate (~ 0 grams/week).

9. Insulin blood sugar spikes are reduced by dark chocolate

Unfortunately, diabetes is a growing concern in the United States, so wouldn’t it be great if dark chocolate could mitigate rates of diabetes? An analysis over 40 clinical trials, including nearly 1300 participants, found that nutritional interventions with cocoa or chocolate significantly reduced fasting insulin concentrations and insulin resistance, endpoints which are used to assess risk for the development of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Again, moderation is key here and the distinction between cocoa/dark chocolate and milk/white chocolate is critical since milk/white chocolate have lower levels of healthful components.

10. Flavanols stimulate blood flow to the brain

A 450 milligram dose (about 1/6 of a teaspoon) of cocoa flavanols increased cerebral blood flow to gray matter in the brain. Additionally, a five day regimen of 150 milligrams of cocoa flavanols increased blood oxygenation levels. But does blood flow translate into smarts? I’m so glad you asked, see the next point.

Advertising

11. Increasing intake of cocoa can improve cognitive function

A study in 90 elderly participants investigated the effects of a high (~990 milligrams), intermediate (~520 milligrams), or low (~45 milligrams) cocoa flavanol doses. Researchers found that participants on the high flavanol track were able to complete cognitive tests much faster and scored better on verbal fluency test scores in comparison to those assigned to low flavanol supplementation. So you are telling me that dark chocolate could make me smarter? Sweet.

12. Dark chocolate reduces stress

This list just gets better and better. Personally, I feel like a weight has been lifted off my chest and this next point only helps this feeling. Preliminary studies demonstrate that dark chocolate consumption reduced excretion of cortisol and catecholamines, hormones involved in the body’s stress response. Additionally, other researchers have shown that consumption of dark chocolate buffered stress responses and reduced levels of perceived stress as assessed through a stress questionnaire. Now it makes even more sense to keep a bar of dark chocolate at work.

13. Dark chocolate boosts energy

I am always looking for an alternative pick me up to my traditional afternoon cup of coffee. Dark chocolate contains a small amount of caffeine to help give you a boost during the mid-afternoon slump.

14. Flavanols from dark chocolate can protect the skin

Just in time for summer! Consumption of flavanol rich chocolate protects against UV rays by increasing the minimum amount of UV rays required to cause skin redness. Moreover, flavanols from cocoa improve blood flow to the skin and increases skin hydration and thickness.

Advertising

15. Dark chocolate can improve teeth health

Sparkle up that smile. Dark chocolate is rich in the antioxidant theobromine, which has been shown to protect the enamel surfaces of teeth. Additionally, this potent antioxidant is better than fluoride at remineralizing and hardening tooth enamel. Knowing these facts only makes me smile more.

As you can see, the health effects of dark chocolate are supported by science and exhibit how dark chocolate and cocoa broadly promote health. Even though I am a dark chocolate lover already, reading over this list has only further convinced me to pick up another bar the next time I am grocery shopping to enjoy this treat (in moderation)!

More by this author

5 Things That Will Happen When You Eat Oatmeal This Is What Will Happen When You Eat Avocados Every Day Calorie Confusion: How Much Is Needed During Pregnancy? Go with Your Gut: The Science Behind Your Gut Bacteria Red Meat for Health: A Recent WHO/IARC Ruling

Trending in Health

1 11 Simple and Effective Ways to Manage Stress 2 Causes of Insomnia and How to Overcome It (The Complete Guide) 3 13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away 4 Can You Stop Depression from Damaging Your Brain? 5 Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on May 25, 2019

20 Spaghetti Squash Recipes For Anyone Who Is Looking For Delicious, Healthy Comfort Food

20 Spaghetti Squash Recipes For Anyone Who Is Looking For Delicious, Healthy Comfort Food

Spaghetti squash is similar to cucumber. It has a shell which is difficult to pierce and this hard flesh surrounds a hollow cavity filled with seeds. When you cook this vegetable, the squash flesh falls away from the inner cavity and only the reminiscent of spaghetti remains. You can get surprised and delighted to see how this vegetable transforms with cooking.

It can act as a great substitute to pasta. It tastes as delicious as the traditional pasta and is equally satisfying but healthier. It is gluten free and contains many nutrients like vitamin A, potassium and folic acid.

This incredible vegetable can be boiled, baked or steamed. And, a lot of recipes can be prepared with spaghetti squash as the chief ingredient. I’m sure the following recipes will make your mouth water.

Breakfast

1. Spiced Coconut Squash Breakfast Porridge

1

    This unconventional porridge, prepared for breakfast, is a perfect dish to start your day. The ingredients include spaghetti squash, organic coconut milk, ginger, coconut flour, maple syrup, cinnamon, sea salt and vanilla extract. It has a comforting and creamy texture and is best served with fresh fruit topping. (Click here for recipe)

    2. Egg and Avocado Spaghetti Squash Boats

    2

      If you’re looking for a light, healthy, gluten free, vegetarian breakfast then avocado spaghetti squash boats is the best option. Besides chopping the squash, breaking the egg and slicing the avocado, this recipe doesn’t require much effort in its preparation. It tastes amazing with egg yolk and salsa and has a rich decadent texture. (Click here for recipe)

      3. Spaghetti Squash Frittata for One

      3

        This frittata, if prepared perfectly, can be an excellent choice for a healthy meal. It is a combination of lots of spaghetti squash, a few white eggs, some red pepper for color and texture, few onions and garlic for flavor, and some fresh herbs for brightness. This dish is usually served large in size and tastes great with tomato sauce and bean balls. (Click here for recipe)

        Advertising

        4. Ingredient Spaghetti Squash Brunch

        4

          It’s a fast and easy breakfast that contains a poached egg and feta on a pre-roasted pile of spaghetti squash bed. The yolk from the egg floods through the scraps of squash underneath. It almost tastes like an Italian pasta and the light crumble of feta adds more calcium and protein. (Click here for recipe)

          5. Spaghetti Squash Hash Browns

          5

            A very healthy take on hash browns in which spaghetti squash is used in place of potatoes and coconut oil in place of butter. This reduces stress, inflammation and starch, making it healthier than traditional hash browns. It helps lose water weight as well which is helpful for weight loss. The final product is fluffy on the inside but crispy on the outside. It is best served alongside some dippy eggs. (Click here for recipe and image source)

            Lunch

            6. Spaghetti Squash Chow Mein

            6

              Spaghetti squash can not only replace Italian pasta but it can also replace the Chinese noodles. They are a delicious, satisfying dish, prepared by stirring and frying spaghetti squash with a rainbow of other vegetables along with a sweet smelling mixture of fish sauce, rice vinegar and soy. They are gluten free and grease free which makes them healthier. (Click here for recipe)

              7. Parmesan Zucchini and Spaghetti Squash with Pine Nuts

              7

                This dish is a marvelous combination of garlic, spaghetti squash, parmesan, toasted pine and zucchini nuts. It’s super healthy, gluten free, full of vegetables and delicious. Tossed with olive oil, this dish meets all the dietary needs and is perfect for light lunch. You can also add some chicken to increase protein.  (Click here for recipe)

                 8. Spaghetti Squash with Mushrooms Parmesan

                Advertising

                8

                  Though spaghetti squash provides low calories, you can add meaty mushroom and a good amount of parmesan cheese to increase the amount of calories. It’s a healthy, full of flavor, vegetarian dish, and has cheap and easy ingredients which you can find in market. The final product is yummy and satisfying and can make your lunch, perfect.  (Click here for recipe)

                   9. Spaghetti Squash with Vegan Fire-Roasted Tomato Cream Sauce

                  9

                    A pile of roasted squash is flavored with a sauce made from five ingredients. The vegan fire-roasted tomato cream sauce is made from the mixture of tomatoes, cashews, basil, salt and water. This spicy sauce makes it more delicious and some small amount of basil adds fresh green color and flavor. (Click here for recipe)

                     10. Thai Peanut Spaghetti Squash

                    10

                      Most of the dishes listed here are either Mexican or Italian. This recipe however will give you a fresh Asian feeling. To prepare this, all you need are spaghetti squash and peanut sauce, then by adding some ginger, lime and vinegar you’ll get one of the most delicious recipes. The texture of this dish reminds you of heavenly beaches in Thailand. (Click here for the recipe)

                      Dinner

                      11. Spaghetti Squash Comfort Bowl

                      11

                        This is the perfect kind of bowl that you want to have on a cold evening, sitting on a couch and watching TV. You’ll enjoy its lightly steamed veggies, allspice beans, and the strands of squash as well. It feels creamy but doesn’t seem too heavy. It’s a great dish with intense indulgence, with our best spaghetti squash, the warm beans, and the comforting steamed veggies. (Click here for the recipe)

                        12. Spaghetti Squash Crust Pizza

                        12

                          As you already know, spaghetti squash is a great substitute for pasta, but this dish here shows how these chewy shreds can make a great stand-in for pizza. You can add anything like meat or veggies to the base which is bound with egg whites and flour. The end product is a great gluten free dish. (Click here for the recipe)

                          Advertising

                          13. Spaghetti Squash Fried Rice

                          13

                            Spaghetti squash works as a good substitute to the cauliflower as the base of a fried rice. This recipe includes almost all of the usual ingredients of a fried rice. With green onions, eggs, peanut oil, and some garlic, this dish gives a unique texture that you can never find in your local restaurants. (Click here for the recipe)

                             14. Roasted Garlic Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats

                            14

                              If you’re looking for something delicious for the winter evenings, you’ll get fond of these cheesy spaghetti squash boats. To lighten it up, it is filled with tomato sauce, cheese, chicken sausage, parmesan and ricotta. You can easily complete its arrangement ahead of time and bake it before dinner. (Click here for the recipe)

                              15. Chicken Enchilada Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

                              15

                                This Mexican inspired dish has spaghetti squash as a serving bowl and inside it goes enchilada sauce, chicken, cheese, black beans and other veggies wrapped inside a corn tortilla blanket. You can also use spinach in place of the corn and black beans. Topped with sauce galore, this dish can be served as a family fun meal.  (Click here for the recipe)

                                Dessert

                                16. Sweet Spaghetti Squash Kugel with Apples and Raisins

                                16

                                  If you can afford spaghetti squash, coconut sugar, some eggs and few other ingredients, then this dish must be your cheapest choice. This noodle is a delight in all seasons. The addition of some apples and raisins results in its fruity freshness. (Click here for the recipe)

                                  17. Spaghetti Squash Coconut Custard Pie

                                  Advertising

                                  17

                                    With the fine sweetness from vanilla extract and coconut, this dessert can be a great hit among guests. The spaghetti squash drowns in an egg batter to make it lighter than a cream pie. You can play and experiment with the ingredients and see surprising results.  (Click here for the recipe)

                                     18. Spaghetti Squash Cake With Cream Cheese Glaze

                                    18

                                      This desert will be a delicious treat to those who are a fan of carrot cake. Spaghetti squash is a vegetable with pleasant taste, lending fiber, potassium and vitamins. So, if you drape it in cream cheese frosting, you will end with this mouth- watering cake. This dessert has so many health benefits and is also great for a Thanksgiving dinner. (Click here for the recipe)

                                       19. Spaghetti Squash Kheer

                                      19

                                        Kheer is a rice pudding made by boiling rice with cow milk and sugar. But this type of kheer replaces boiling rice with noodles swapped out of spaghetti squash and cow milk with coconut milk. By pouring some ghee, you can add necessary richness in it. It is healthier than traditional kheer and can act as a great dessert for your evenings. (Click here for the recipe)

                                         20. Cinnamon Spice Spaghetti Squash Cake

                                        20

                                          By now, you must be surprised by the versatility of spaghetti squash. But your best surprise will probably come after you finish preparing this cake. This cake is a game changer. You’ll have the taste of lots of veggies like cinnamon, allspice maple syrup and ginger, all inside a single cake.  It’s a perfect treat for picky eaters. (Click here for the recipe)

                                          Featured photo credit: Spaghetti Squash with Fire Roasted Tomato, Olive and Baby Spinach Sauce via commons.wikimedia.org

                                          Read Next