The Health Secrets of Dark Chocolate

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH


How dark chocolate is good for you and may actually help fight the symptoms of the stages of adrenal fatigueHave you been told that eating healthy means eliminating any and all sweets? We are here to tell you a delicious secret. Some of the tasty treats you love such as dark chocolate can actually be extremely good for your body. Studies have confirmed it. Dark chocolate is good for your heart, your brain, and your overall health. Eating healthy may have just gotten a little bit easier.

Research on Dark Chocolate Health Benefits

Researchers have discovered that dark chocolate has many health benefits. It’s great for heart health, improves attention and focus, and lowers blood pressure. A recent study on dark chocolate by Larry Stevens, of North Arizona University, on the effects of eating dark chocolate and how it affected the brain. It was published in the Journal NeuroRegulation, and funded by the Hershey Company. They found improvement in the brain’s attentional characteristics, overall peaceful feelings, and lowering of blood pressure over time.

Professor Steven’s study consisted of 122 people ranging in ages from 18 to 25. Using electroencephalography or EEG technology, the researchers measured brain activity before and after each participant ate a 60% cacao chocolate sample. Measurements were taken at 5 minutes and then again at 60 minutes. According to the results, chocolate boosted the brain’s attentiveness and alertness. It also increased blood pressure for a short time, but in long-term ranges, it worked as a vasodilator to lower blood pressure and widen blood vessels.

Another study conducted on cocoa found more evidence supporting that dark chocolate can lead to remarkable decreases in blood pressure, both for the diastolic and systolic measurements. The study found that 470 elderly men who consumed more cocoa over 15 years had a remarkably reduced blood pressure. This gave mortality an 8% decrease, coronary heart disease a reduction of 10%, and strokes a decrease of 20%. Overall, they had a 45-50% reduction in cardiovascular risk factors.

What Dark Chocolate Could Do for You

How dark chocolate is good for you and your healthDark chocolate is derived from the seeds of the cocoa tree. Not only is it used to make one of the planets best sweets, but it is also one of the best sources of flavonoids and antioxidants. It has a tremendous amount of health benefits starting at a cellular level, as it helps repair and reduce cellular damage.

What makes dark chocolate healthy is the high cocoa content. It is not only loaded with many minerals, but it also contains soluble fiber.

Dark chocolate has a high ORAC score, or oxygen radical absorbance capacity. It is one of the highest of any food ever tested. ORAC tests measure how well antioxidants from the food performs against free radicals in a test tube. Dark chocolate is also loaded with biologically active organic compounds such as catechins, flavanols, and polyphenols. One ORAC study found that the cocoa contained more antioxidants than any superfoods tested including powerful sources such as acai berries and blueberries.

For those with high cholesterol, dark chocolate has even been found to lower total LDL scores by decreasing levels of oxidized LDL, and increasing HDL cholesterol levels. As noted above, dark chocolate can help lower blood pressure over the long-term. Eating dark chocolate can also help those with diabetes by reducing insulin resistance.

The bioactive compounds found in dark chocolate can also aid in protecting your skin from UVB damage. The flavanols make the skin more dense and hydrated by improving blood flow. MED levels, or the minimal amount of sun that can cause damage to the skin, more than double when dark chocolate is consumed for twelve weeks.

Dark chocolate should be consumed in moderation, however. Eating a few pieces at a time and savoring the flavor is best.

Dark Chocolate Considerations for AFS

Everything you eat affects your body, thus the old adage “you are what you eat.” This is especially true if you suffer from chronic health problems. Yes, dark chocolate has many health benefits, but for those who suffer from chronic illnesses, like diabetes or adrenal fatigue, chocolate can have the reverse effects and actually be detrimental to your health. It is important to know what your body needs.

One such illness is Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome, or AFS, a stress-induced ailment that injures the adrenals and causes severe fatigue, body aches, brain fog, low tolerance of stress, sinus and breathing issues, and lightheadedness. Issues such as fatigue, brain fog, anxiety, and depression can all make it very difficult to focus and concentrate on daily activities or living a normal life.

How dark chocolate is good for you and may help curb the symptoms of the stages of adrenal fatigue remember this study was done with chocolate containing 60% cacaoAlthough dark chocolate cannot make these symptoms go away, it may help to alleviate them a little and offer an amazing dose of antioxidants to keep the body healthy.

However, in more advanced AFS, the body can become extremely sensitive to certain foods that it once was fine with. For this reason, those with AFS should always exercise caution adding new foods, like chocolate, to their diets.

In addition, for many people in the advanced stages of adrenal fatigue, cacao can be overstimulating. It contains stimulants like caffeine and theobromine and could keep a sensitive body awake at night. Adequate sleep is vital for AFS recovery, and all stimulants should be avoided for this reason.

It is important to keep in mind that while the dark chocolate in the above study contains 60% cacao, most commercial types of chocolate contain much less actually cacao. Instead, they contain milk, fats, and sugar, all of which should be consumed in moderation. Following an adrenal fatigue diet for recovery typically involves eliminating as many simple sugars as possible to avoid stressing the body and causing adrenal crashes. Thus, if you do decide to eat more dark chocolate, look for a brand that states how much cacao is present and preferably gets its cacao from an organic and fair-trade source.

Conclusion

Although dark chocolate is extremely beneficial for your health, it’s important that you only add it to your diet if it is right for your body. Those with conditions like advanced AFS and diabetes need to exercise extra caution or avoid it entirely. If you are unsure of the condition or stage of your adrenal fatigue, it is always best to discuss your health with a specialized health care practitioner.

You can find wonderful sources of dark chocolate at health food stores across America. As more chocolate manufacturers jump on the health bandwagon, there are more and more healthy dark chocolate bars on the market. Make sure the cacao content is higher than 60%, and the sugar content is low for the most health benefits. You can even find blends such as dark chocolate with green tea extracts or dark chocolate with acai berries for super doses of antioxidants.

 
© Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.


Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Consuming dark chocolate has a lot of health benefits for many people. However, it is vital to check with a professional if you suffer from AFS as your body may be overstimulated by dark chocolate. It may not be appropriate for everyone.


How dark chocolate is good for you and your health