Many studies have conclusively shown that regular consumption of plant-based foods and beverages can lead to a decreased risk of stroke and coronary heart disease, particularly as we get older. As a result eating more of these foods, including fruit and vegetables, is a good idea.
However, there is one beneficial plant-derived food that may surprise you and that is cocoa – the main ingredient in chocolate. Experts have confirmed that it can be a useful inclusion in your diet to help prevent against stroke and heart disease.
Further to this, study after study has proven that cocoa can also benefit people who are experiencing insulin resistance, high blood pressure and problems with platelet and vascular functions.
So let’s take a closer look at how the benefits of dark chocolate for anti aging were discovered, and why it works.
How the Health Benefits of Cocoa Were Discovered
Early evidence of the health benefits of cocoa was seen among Kuna Indians, a group of native people who live on one of the islands off the coast of Panama.
The Kuna population was found to be a culture protected from the risks associated with age-dependent increase in blood pressure. They were also found to be show no signs of arterial hypertension.
When clinical studies were conducted, experts discovered that the ability of the Kuna population to ward off diseases common to the aging population in other cultures can be greatly attributed to their regular consumption of cocoa.
Their habit of drinking cocoa beverages on a daily basis has almost completely spared them from having high blood pressure and from experiencing any decline in kidney function.
Also, their death rate resulting from cardiovascular events is significantly lower than the cardiovascular mortality rate of other Pan-American citizens, including those in nearby Panama City.
Experts believe that the mortality rate in other Pan-American cultures is due mainly to environmental factors rather than genetic. Many Kuna natives who have migrated to urban Panama City have ceased to stick to their habit of drinking home prepared cocoa beverages and replaced it with other beverages that have lower or no flavanol content at all. These people were found to have cardiovascular disease rates on par with other Panama City residents, not Kuna villagers.
Why Dark Chocolate is Better than Milk Chocolate
In a study which showed consumption of dark chocolate can help improve antioxidant levels in the body, the same effect was not observed among groups of people who consumed milk chocolate.
In addition, researchers ascertained that consuming milk chocolate while dark chocolate is being consumed will actually deplete the antioxidant benefits of dark chocolate.
A group of researchers from Scotland confirmed that the amount of flavonoids found in dark chocolates is double the antioxidant content of milk chocolate.
For the sake of your health, it is important to understand why dark chocolate is different to other chocolate. Simply put, the best way to get maximum benefit from the antioxidant properties of cocoa is to eat the unprocessed bean. Pound for pound, it is a true antioxidant powerhouse.
However, the active ingredients that are beneficial to health also make the bean quite bitter. When it is processed into chocolate, many of these are removed to make it more palatable. Also, milk and sugar can be added to make tasty, but unhealthy, milk chocolate.
Beneficial dark chocolate contains at least 70 per cent cocoa – the trade off is health benefits for a more bitter taste. The taste is by no means bad, and in fact many people prefer dark chocolate. At the other end of the spectrum is white chocolate where cocoa is a very minor ingredient.
When buying, remember that the darker the chocolate, the better, as darker chocolates contain a greater amount of flavonoids. Steer clear of chocolates that only contain cocoa fat, flavorings and sugar which are more often found in white chocolate.
You should also avoid chocolate products that contain nougat or caramel fillings because these are loaded with fat and sugar which cancels out the benefits of eating dark chocolate.
Most importantly, even though its antioxidant properties are deemed healthy it is important to keep in mind that even dark chocolate consumption must be done in moderation. It should be only a small part of an all round healthy diet and lifestyle supplemented with exercise, good quality sleep and lots of water.