How Chocolate Improves Your Health

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I love dark chocolate. I’ve loved it more over the years knowing that its good for me. Dark chocolate is, by definition, chocolate comprised of over 60% cocoa and sometimes called “semisweet”. It has been touted as a food rich in tannins or flavonoids, which are polyphenol antioxidants similar to those in green tea, red wine, and blueberries.

The health benefits of dark chocolate have been known to decrease LDL or “bad” cholesterol and increase blood flow in arteries. A meta-analysis of studies from 1955-2009 that examined the benefits of cocoa showed dark chocolate is both statically and clinically significant in improving blood pressure. The mechanism of these benefits has been thought to be an increase in nitric oxide, which promotes expansion or dilation of the blood vessels.

In a paper from 2014, researchers reported that the actual reason dark chocolate benefits your health originates in your gut. It turns out that the flavonoids or antioxidants in chocolate are not able to be absorbed by the gut well enough to be any benefit. But the good bacteria in your gut ferments these flavonoids along with some dietary fiber that transforms them into smaller molecules that can be absorbed in the colon.

The study’s author, Dr. John Finley, says that dark chocolate can have even more potent health benefits when eaten with fruits like pomegranates. My dark chocolate of choice is anything form the brand Lilly’s, which uses stevia to sweeten the chocolate and therefore lowers the total carbohydrates per serving.  Their chocolate ranges from 60-85% dark chocolate. 

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