The health benefits of dark chocolate

Thanks to unique antioxidants found naturally in the cocoa bean, dark chocolate has been recognized as a health food.

Chocolate researchers have demonstrated that chocolate’s special molecules (flavonols) can improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels, protect our blood vessels from damage, and enhance overall circulation and blood flow. New research is examining chocolate’s potential in improving brain function (including memory), and cocoa may be especially helpful in fighting inflammation.

However these health benefits only apply to dark chocolate made with a minimum of 65% (or ideally more) of cocoa. Milk chocolate has more sugar and milk than actual chocolate, and therefore does not qualify as a health food.

Cocoa powder, on the otherhand, provides all of the health benefits of chocolate, without the added calories from added sugars. It offers double the amount of antioxidants as a bar of dark chocolate, and as much fiber as most fruits and vegetables. Cocoa powder also is a rich source of many essential minerals, including magnesium, copper and iron.

Additionally, theobromine — one of many compounds found naturally in chocolate — is an effective cough suppressant (more effective than prescription drugs); it works by relaxing the nerves and muscles of the lungs (also may be useful for asthma). Make yourself a cup of hot chocolate to boost your mood, kick your cough, and load up on antioxidants at the same time. Adding a pinch of warming cinnamon, or cayenne will offer even more health benefits, and make it a real hot chocolate.

More about: cacao beans, chocolate, cocoa powder, nutrition

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Nick Rose, M.S.

Nick Rose, PCC Cooks instructor

As a Nutrition Educator for PCC Natural Markets, Nick leads weekly "Walk, Talk, and Taste" classes, where he reveals the seasonal, sustainable, and delicious food choices found at PCC. Before coming to PCC, Nick taught nutrition courses at Bastyr University and his alma mater-Virginia Tech.

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