The Mayans considered chocolate as ‘food of the gods’, and reading some of its health benefits on World Chocolate Day may make you believe it too. But before you tear open that pack of M&M’s, allow us to clarify that we are talking specifically about dark chocolate here.
Packed with anti-oxidants, minerals, polyphenols and flavonoids, dark chocolate can almost be classified as a superfood when consumed in moderation. But how can chocolate – something that’s so delicious and desirable – actually be good for you? Some of its benefits are listed below:
Bursting with anti-oxidants
“Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants that can ‘disarm’ oxidising agents or free radicals in your body before they can cause you any harm. Some studies have shown that dark chocolate has a higher level of antioxidants than any fruit – including blueberries and acai berries,” says Delhi-based Deepak Pal, who is a lifestyle coach at the Smart Metabolic Anti-Ageing Centre.
Better brain function
In the short term, a small chunk of dark chocolate can improve brain function by boosting your awareness and concentration levels. “Raw cocoa is a natural source of caffeine and theobromine, which provide an instant burst of energy to your brain without the added sugar of an energy drink. Dark chocolate, when consumed over time, also helps increase blood flow to the brain – allowing it to function optimally,” says Pal.
Helps combat heart disease
Hira Junaid, a Delhi-based lifestyle coach, calls dark chocolate “your sweet soldier” in the battle against heart disease. “Research has shown that moderate consumption of dark chocolate in the long term can fight bad cholesterol and lower your body’s insulin resistance. The effect of dark chocolate gets magnified when consumed as part of a low-fat, high-carb diet. This can combat bad cholesterol and control insulin resistance that put you at immediate risk of heart disease.”
Junaid also advises that consumers pick a brand of dark chocolate with more than 70% cocoa and little to no added sugar.
Dark chocolate may taste bitter, but it is considered as the fountain of youth. It is high in antioxidants that protect your skin from free radical damage, keeping it soft and supple for long. It also prevents the breakdown of collagen. “Collagen, considered as the building block of the skin, makes your complexion firm and plump. It also helps to replace old and dead skin cells with new ones. All in all, it is the glue that holds the body together. Dark chocolate prevents the breakage of this very vital part of the skin, which – if affected – will give rise to wrinkles and fine lines that make you look old,” says Dr Amit Karkhanis, a medical cosmetologist and director at Dr Tvacha Clinic, Delhi.
Besides this, dark chocolate helps you gain glowing skin by providing stress- relieving qualities that – in turn – reduce elevated stress hormones. The flavonoids in dark chocolate also act like shields against harmful UV rays, protecting the skin from sun damage and skin cancer.