Sweet and Healthy: 3 Dark Chocolate Benefits
By Sara Butler
February is upon us and you know what that means -- National Dark Chocolate Day is coming. Valentine’s Day gets all the February glory, but my money is on National Dark Chocolate day as the best holiday of the month. In honor of this delicious holiday, which you can celebrate on February 1 (but there’s no reason not to celebrate it year-round), here are just a few of the health benefits dark chocolate has to offer.
It’s Great for Your Cardiovascular System
One major benefit of dark chocolate is that researchers have found it benefits your heart and brain. Studies have found that people who ate dark chocolate had a reduced risk for stroke and heart disease. In fact, studies have found that people who eat dark chocolate five or more times per week slashed their risk of heart disease by 57 percent.
Is it a miracle? Not exactly. It turns out that dark chocolate is good for your heart because of its flavor -- well, it’s flavonoids, anyway. Dark chocolate is full of flavonoids, a chemical that assists the body in its production of nitric oxide, which then lowers blood pressure by causing blood vessels to relax. While more studies must be done to determine the connection between flavonoids and heart health, it’s still a promising area of research. Until more information comes to light, take your time enjoying your dark chocolate.
It’s Good for Your Blood Sugar
When you think about preventing diabetes, you probably don’t envision yourself chowing down on some dark chocolate, but it turns out that’s exactly what you should be doing! Studies have found that dark chocolate may be able to improve how your body handles glucose. When your body can appropriately handle insulin to control blood sugar, it cuts down on your chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
Plus, remember all those flavonoids we talked about? They happen to be good for reducing oxidative stress, which many researchers believe is the foundation of insulin resistance that lays the groundwork for type 2 diabetes. Improving your body’s sensitivity to insulin further reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes as long as you have dark chocolate at least twice per week.
Will Any Dark Chocolate Do?
Not all chocolate is created equal. If you want to reap the benefits of dark chocolate in February (and all the time), then you need to make sure it’s at least 70 percent dark chocolate or higher. Those are the types of dark chocolate that contain all the potassium, copper, magnesium, fiber, and antioxidants that are so good for you.
The only caveat is that dark chocolate still contains calories and fat. So just because it’s good for you doesn’t mean you don’t need to pay attention to serving size. Every brand is processed differently, so make sure to look at the nutritional information on the label for serving size and avoid any with a ton of added sugar, or chocolate with a lot of unnatural ingredients.
You need a little indulgence in your life, so celebrate National Dark Chocolate Day responsibly and repeatedly for your continued good health!
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