Chocolate. Dark, rich, creamy, and oh so very...good for you! Yes I said it. Good for you! Nonsense, you say — how can something so deliciously decadent like dark chocolate possibly be good for your body? Let us count the ways:
Boost your antioxidant intake
Providing a wealth of polyphenol antioxidants, cocoa is specifically high in flavonols, which evidence suggests have cardiovascular benefits1. The more active you are, the more beneficial dark chocolate may be, as heart rate and rate of breathing increases, so too does the rate of oxidation within your cells.
Get your minerals: magnesium, iron, manganese
One ounce of 70 to 85% dark chocolate contains approximately 16% of your recommended daily value (DV) for magnesium, 19% DV iron, and 27% DV for manganese (values according to the USDA Database). Because of the role these minerals play in the body, an ounce of dark chocolate can be a beneficial aid towards: relaxing tense muscles (thanks to magnesium); strengthening red blood cell formation (valuable for energy) thanks to a plant-based source of iron; metabolising fats and carbs, and helping to regulate blood sugar, thanks to manganese.
Help regulate blood sugar
Cocoa’s flavanoids may influence blood sugar regulation and blood flow. Studies2,3, have found dark chocolate to increase the availability of a molecule called nitric oxide. This supports the body in regulating blood sugar, and also dilates blood vessels for better circulation of nutrients into the muscle tissue.
Suppress cough, naturally
Theobromine — a compound present in cocoa — has been shown to suppress coughs4. Theobromine’s cough suppressing action may be connected to its inhibition of vagus nerve activity (a nerve partly responsible for swallowing and speaking, and also connected to the windpipe and lungs, the site of irritation during a cough).
Snack on low-glycemic energy
Clean, dark chocolate can be entirely plant-based. Choose a brand that is rich in real cocoa (containing butter, nibs, beans) at a minimum of 70%. Make sure there’s more grams of clean fat content than sugar and you’ll slow the energy release, making 70%+ cocoa dark chocolate a naturally low-glycemic snack.
1Corti, Roberto MD; Flammer, Andreas J., MD; Hollenberg, Norman K. , MD, PhD; Lüscher, Thomas F. MD. (2009) Cocoa and Cardiovascular Health. Circulation (Contemporary Reviews in Cardiovascular Medicine). Retrieved from: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/119/10/1433.long)
2Sies,Helmut; Schewe, Tankred; Heiss, Christian, and Kelm, Malte. (2005) Cocoa polyphenols and inflammatory mediators. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 81 no. 1. Retrieved from: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/81/1/304S.long
3Grassi, Davide; Desideri, Giovambattista; Necozione, Stefano; Lippi, Cristina, Et al. (2008) Blood Pressure Is Reduced and Insulin Sensitivity Increased in Glucose-Intolerant, Hypertensive Subjects after 15 Days of Consuming High-Polyphenol Dark Chocolate. Journal of Nutrition vol. 138 no. 9. Retrieved from: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/138/9/1671.long
4Usmani, Omar S.; Belvisi, Maria G.; Patel, Hema J.; Crispino, Natascia; Birrell, Mark A.; Et al. (2004) Theobromine inhibits sensory nerve activation and cough. The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. Retrieved from: http://www.fasebj.org/content/early/2005/01/27/fj.04-1990fje.long