The Dark Side

Health conscious people avoid it like the plague and some doctors will tell you to refrain from eating this high calorie, albeit, delicious treat. But wait just one second before you ditch the dark chocolate or swear off it forever for fear that it will add inches to your waist. As it turns out, research now shows that dark chocolate may have a myriad of health benefits which outweigh the risk of weight gain. Here is a closer look at the dark side and why dark chocolate is good for you.

Antioxidants
You would have to live under a rock if you hadn't heard the craze about eating foods rich in antioxidants. If a rock is where you call home, here is the gist; antioxidants fight off free radicals within the body. Free radicals have a negative effect on our body's cells and can damage them in a way that they no longer perform the duties they need to. The result is that we age faster and research has shown that these radicals increase the risk of certain types of cancers.

It just so happens that antioxidants are found in dark chocolate, and thus, eating dark chocolate in small doses a couple times a week may help your body and cells remain protected from damaging free radicals.

Vitamins and Minerals Abound
Another benefit of dark chocolate is that although it has sugar, it also has a lot of good stuff that is beneficial to the body. Even a small dose of dark chocolate offers vitamins and minerals such as potassium, copper, magnesium and iron. Copper and magnesium in particular are necessary to ward off cardiovascular disease such as strokes and heart attacks, while keeping iron levels up ensures we prevail over diseases like anemia. Magnesium assists in combating other heart diseases and is also helps fight off type 2 diabetes.

Memory and Brain Function
Studies also unveil that dark chocolate contains the active ingredient phenylethylamine which plays a pivotal role in how our brains function. When phenylethylamine is released into the body, it also releases endorphins; the same endorphins that make us feel happy and giddy. If you've ever fallen in love, gotten butterflies in your stomach or just felt like you are walking on water because this new person is in your life, you have experienced a high level of endorphins being released. Dark chocolate has the same effect.

Dark chocolate can also be credited as helping your blood flow to the brain easier. When our blood flows without restriction, the result is that we have better memory recall and our overall cognitive functioning increases or improves. The next time you need to study for a test or remember that grocery list, consider popping a few squares of dark chocolate.

Other studies conducted showed that dark chocolate also may have anti-clogging properties for the blood, and in fact, may lessen the risk of blood clots which are a leading cause of heart attacks and strokes.

Sugar Control
Most types of chocolate tend to be high in glucose, which causes diabetes. Dark chocolate however has a much lower placement on the glycemic index and therefore unlike milk chocolate and other foods, won't increase your sugar levels as high. Since poor blood flow and bad circulation can increase your risk of diabetes, or affect those already being treated for diabetes, the antioxidants in dark chocolate will help counteract the risks of diabetes.

Because dark chocolate contains as much as 70 percent of flavonols, which deposit antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components into the body, the effect may be that our LDL levels (bad cholesterol) may decrease and our HDL levels (good cholesterol) may increase.

Unlike light or white chocolate, which is very high in sugar and fat, dark chocolate is not; that fact combined with all the positive properties such as vitamins, mineral and flavonols means that the benefits of dark chocolate far outweigh the risk of gaining weight.

As with any other food, for dark chocolate to be effective for our health and not a detrimental it should be eaten in moderation. A small serving two to three times per week will do the trick and as long as you remain minimally active, it is unlikely that eating this amount will cause noticeable weight gain.

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