The Vitl Nutrition Team / 28 Oct 2019
Dark chocolate has been hailed throughout history as a “food of the Gods”1 but intriguing studies are now exposing cardiovascular and neuroprotective properties, proving that the pros of a daily dose may almost outweigh the cons2.
Cocoa content, represented by the ‘%’ often found on the label of chocolate bars, is responsible for most of the health benefits attributed to chocolate. You may have heard of chocolate being praised as an antioxidant and while this can’t be said for milk or white chocolate, cocoa is a rich source of flavanols- a proactive member of the polyphenol family3. The effects of these natural antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components have been found to enhance brain function, reduce the risk of heart disease, improve insulin resistance and regulate our immune response2,4.
With age-related cognitive decline threatening an increasing number of us, chocolate has been at the centre of many investigations, showing potential to improve general cognition, processing, attention and memory5. Studies have been carried out on elderly adults, involving cognitively healthy subjects as well as those already experiencing mild mental decline, with promising results.
Healthy subjects exhibited improved brain function after 8 weeks consuming cocoa6 including improved verbal fluency, while less healthy subjects also reported better memory and ability to process information7. Other studies have shown how flavanols in cocoa can boost learning, encouraging cell signalling and communication in the brain8.
The saturated fat content of chocolates has often unnerved nutritionists but studies have revealed that certain chocolate can have a positive effect on our cholesterol9. Studies have shown that cocoa polyphenols can actually play a role in fat metabolism resulting in lower levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol10. The inclusion of cocoa-rich dark chocolate in our diet can benefit overall heart health by preventing or reducing inflammation11. This helps to maintain healthy blood vessels, keeping our blood pressure in check12,13.
Researchers also looked at how consumption of 70% cacao chocolate impacts the activity of certain immune cells. The reported benefits have been associated with the regulation of immune cells14, inflammatory processes protecting us from tissue damage and may even play a role in allergy control15.
Plenty of evidence has been gathered to suggest that moderate consumption of dark chocolate can benefit our cardiovascular, neurological and immune system health, keeping your everyday health in check. When moderately adding chocolate to your diet, make sure to choose 70% or higher cocoa content dark chocolate. So if ever there was a reason to treat yourself to this delicious dairy-free chocolate mousse - this is it!
More delicious chocolate recipes from the Vitl Life blog: