Why dark chocolate is good ‘heart’ food

It’s everyone’s favourite guilty pleasure. A rich bar of chocolate — with nuts, or caramel, fruit or simply had on its own — is a comfort food and can score all the brownie points with someone special when it comes to gifting him/her.
But if chocolate is your lure, the next time you decide to have some, go dark. Scientists and researchers are increasingly looking at the health benefits of the dark variety of chocolate, espceially with regard to heart health. Here’s why you can enjoy a guilt-free binge…
Health benefits:
There are several benefits to dark chocolate. Says dietician Priya Karkera, “It’s a storehouse of iron, copper, magnesium as well as manganese and has been proven to help in lowering blood pressure.” (She also presents some benefits, see below). While folks have been talking of its advantages for a while now, you might wonder how dark should dark chocolate be? A normal dark bar has 70% cacao, but experts are also extolling virtues of a bar with 100% cacao chocolate that offers a burst of antioxidants. It also has lower quantities of unhealthy ingredients, like fat and sugar.
Converts the ‘bad’ to ‘good’: Dark chocolate (with over 75 gms of cocoa) is loaded with antioxidants preventing the bad cholesterol to form plaques or blockages in the arteries of the heart. It contains 2/3 of MUFA — mono unsaturated fatty acids — which are the good fats essential for our body.
Can harden tooth enamel: Sure, chocolates are enemies to the dentists. However, the theobromine content in dark chocolates actually aids in hardening of the tooth enamel. And it is the sugar content in the other variety that causes all the harmful effects.
Can make you live longer: That’s apparently true! Researchers at Harvard
studied 8,000 men for 65 years and they found that those who ate reasonable amounts of chocolate thrice a month, lived almost a year longer than those who didn’t eat any. They came to the conclusion that it this could be due to the fact that cocoa has antioxidants called polyphenols, which can prevent the oxidation of bad or harmful cholesterol. Having a dark variety is even better.
Helps with stroke: As per a study, dark chocolate is said to lessen brain damage risk, following a stroke. Scientists found that a compound called epicatechin, found in dark chocolate, can protects the brain against strokes by shielding nerve cells.
Avoids macular degeneration: Dark chocolate could also help stave off age-related macular degeneration, regarded as the common cause of blindness in older people as well as those suffering from dementia.
Reduces clot risk: Dark chocolate is also said to act like aspirin where it thins the blood and lessens the time it takes for the blood to clot. Apparently, it is the chemical in cocoa beans responsible for this.
Is a stress buster: Did you know that munching on a small 20g bar of dark chocolate can help with anger management and hold off the stress? Dark chocolates are rich in Phenylethylamine (PEA) the chemical which stimulates the brain cells to release endorphins, sets in a feeling of happiness and helps to curb depression.
Lesser caffeine: Though it is said to contain caffeine, the percentage of this is 10 times lesser than the amount found in coffee.