Statistics tells us that an average person consumes around 5 to 10 kilos of chocolate per year (people in some countries eat more and some less) and that is a lot of chocolate! We have always been advised to stay away from chocolate but what if there is a type of chocolate that can actually do a lot of good to us. The chocolate I am referring to is dark chocolate, it has loads of health benefits and medicinal uses.
What Is Dark Chocolate?
Dark chocolate is made from cocoa beans | cacao which are actually the seeds of a plant called Theobrama Cacao. There are 3 varieties of chocolate that is commonly available, one is milk chocolate, the second is semi sweet chocolate and the third is dark chocolate. A chocolate is considered dark, if it has 70 % cocoa solids or more. Semisweet chocolate usually contains 30 % cocoa solids and white chocolate contains around 10 % cocoa solids. Dark chocolate contains the least amount of sugar and more of cocoa solids than any type of chocolate which makes it healthy compared to other chocolates. Foods and drinks made from cocoa beans have been consumed from ancient times and has wonderful healing properties.
Dark Chocolate Nutrition:
Dark Chocolate Calories, Vitamins & Minerals:
100 grams of dark chocolate contains around 531 calories, 55.5 carbohydrates, 28.5 grams of fat, 13.3 grams of protein and 1.7 grams of fiber. Dark chocolate is also rich in minerals, 100 grams have around 36mg of magnesium, 114mg of potassium, 1.9 mg of iron. It is also rich in selenium, calcium, zinc, manganese and vitamin K.
Antioxidants & Flavonoids In Dark Chocolate:
Dark chocolate contains more phenolic antioxidants than most foods as it is rich in flavonoids particularly falvanols. Flavanols are the reason behind the bitterness of cocoa. Commercial chocolate producers to mask the bitterness, highly process it and add in sugar and other flavors. That is why dark chocolate contains 5 times more flavanols than regular chocolate as there are less additives. The main flavanols found in dark chocolate are epicatechin, catechin and procyanidins and out of these three, procyanidins account for the majority of antioxidant activity.
Dark Chocolate Medicinal Uses:
1. Prevents Premature Ageing:
Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and foods that are high in antioxidants fights off free radicals which are the main reason for premature ageing of skin and hair.
2. Cardiovascular Benefits:
Cocoa is rich in flavonoids especially flavan-3-ols which has wonderful cardiovascular benefits. Though dark chocolate is rich in lipids, it is mostly stearic acid which does not elevate the serum lipid levels like other saturated fatty acids.
3. Anti Inflammatory Properties:
Since dark chocolate have high amount of flavonoids which reduces inflammation, consuming dark chocolate in small doses regularly will reduce inflammation and you can read the study that proves it here.
4. Reduces Blood Pressure:
The link between blood pressure and cocoa consumption has been proven clinically beyond doubt. Dark chocolate reduces both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The efficiency depends of the amount of flavnoids present in the dark chocolate, you can read the study that supports this claim here.
5. Improves Insulin Resistance:
Kuna Indians of San Blas islands are one of the major consumers of cocoa and not surprisingly they have very low rates of both hypertension and diabetes that is because flavonoids improves insulin sensitivity. The effect on insulin resistance improves when dark chocolate is consumed for long duration’s of time.
6. Prevents Cancer:
A bar of chocolate preventing cancer can seem little far fetching but chronic inflammation and oxidative stress are the two main factors leading to the formation of cancer. Since dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and has anti inflammatory properties, it does prevent carcinogenesis.
7. Positive impact On Central Nervous System:
Falvonoids present in dark chocolate has a positive effect on our nervous system, it has a protective effect and increases blood flow. It prevents neuronal injury and neuro inflammation and can help improve our long term memory as well.
8. For Weight Loss:
Though it is a popular advise to stop having chocolate when we are on a diet to lose weight, dark chocolate if had in small amounts will not lead to weight gain. Also the smell of chocolate actually suppresses appetite.
9. Improves Immunity:
Any food that is rich in antioxidants will help improve immunity and since dark chocolate is very high in antioxidants it greatly improves immunity.
10. For Skin Protection:
Dark chocolate which has high amount of flavonoids have skin protecting properties and protects the skin from UV damage. Both external application and internal consumption will help. I have given some of the ways I use dark chocolate for skin care below.
Dark Chocolate Side Effects:
Like any other food consuming large quantity of dark chocolate will have side effects like headache, heartburn, etc. When buying dark chocolate always try to buy chocolate that contains 70 % cocoa solids or more. If you are a regular chocolate lover, you might find it difficult to consume bitter dark chocolate but you will get used to it very soon. I am not a chocolate lover but few years back I took a sudden liking to dark chocolate and I treat myself to a small piece of good quality dark chocolate often……..
3 Amazing Ways To Use Dark Chocolate For Skin Care:
1. Dark Chocolate & Strawberry Face Pack:
This face mask leaves your skin absolutely soft and supple. For the mask, take dark chocolate in a a double boiler and heat till fully melted. Once melted fully, let it cool to lukewarm temperature, add equal quantity of strawberry puree and mix well. Apply this chocolate face pack all over the face. Wait for it to dry completely and wash it off.
2. Dark Chocolate Lip Balm:
Take 1 tsp of Cocoa butter in a bowl, add in 1 tsp of dark chocolate chips to it and melt using a double boiler. Once melted add in few drops pure vanilla and mix well. Store it an airtight box and apply this lip balm everyday night before going to bed.
3. Dark Chocolate & Honey Facial Treatment:
This chocolate treatment is another of my favorites that is great for ageing skin. For the treatment, melt dark chocolate in a bowl, add in few drops of unprocessed raw honey and mix well. Apply this as a face pack, let it dry and wash it off. Regular use will delay wrinkles and fine lines.