Research suggests dark chocolate may help people suffering from cirrhosis of the liver. According to a study presented at the International Liver Congress, eating dark chocolate may help people suffering from cirrhosis by reducing damage to blood vessels and lowering blood pressure.
Unfortunately, white or milk chocolate does not appear to have the same benefits. But before you go rushing for the nearest box of chocolates, there are a few things to bear in mind. Most commercial chocolate bars are stuffed with saturated fat, trans fat, artificial sweeteners and lots of sugar. To get any benefit out of your chocolate you need to look for dark organic raw chocolate with no artificial additives.
But remember … moderation is the key. Gorging on a whole bar will probably just make you feel sick!
The health benefits of chocolate lie in the antioxidant properties of cocoa beans. Eating dark chocolate or xocai could actually be good for you. Studies have shown antioxidants in dark chocolate can help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, can reduce high pressure and improve insulin sensitivity. Eating xocai in moderation may even help with weight loss due to its low fat content.
Dark Chocolate Antioxidants
Cocoa beans are full of compounds called flavanoids which are also found in onions, strawberries, cranberries, apples and red wine. More than 4,000 of these provide antioxidant protection. The flavanols found in cocoa beans prevent fat substances in the arteries from clogging, reducing the risk of heart attack and strokes. Cocoa beans also contain magnesium which is important for a healthy heart.
Xocai is a mix of dark chocolate and acai berries, both of which have powerful antioxidant capabilities. The name xocai is made up of two words: the Aztec word xocolatl and the acai berry found in the Amazon rain forest. It is low in fat, low in sugar and high in antioxidants. In moderation, it is recommended for anyone wanting to lose weight but still eat chocolate. Acai berries have been used for hundreds of years in Brazil and are prized for their ability to provide strength and energy and for their high nutrient content.
Flavanols in cocoa beans also regulate nitric oxide which is important for cardiovascular health and promotes healthy blood flow and healthy blood pressure. One study in Italy found chocolate lowered blood pressure. Researchers concluded this may be because cocoa beans support the body’s ability to synthesize nitric oxide. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also reported that chocolate decreased blood pressure and improved insulin sensitivity.
The Health Benefits of Chocolate
The flavanols and antioxidants found in cocoa beans produce the real health benefits of chocolate. These are the substances that make chocolate bitter. To reap these benefits, it is important to eat dark chocolate with a high cocoa content. Milk and white chocolate have virtually no health benefits. Commercial chocolate bars are generally loaded with sugar and fat and processing removes most of its antioxidant flavonoids.
Most of the fat in chocolate comes from cocoa butter and is made up of three different types: oleic acid, stearic acid and palmitic acid. Oleic acid is found in olive oil and is heart healthy fat. Stearic acid is neutral, and not particularly good or bad, but palmitic acid is not something to eat in large amounts. However, it really only makes up around a third of the fat content in chocolate so eating small amounts is unlikey to do much harm. Really healthy chocolate should contain around 60 percent cocoa and is normally more expensive than cheap brands which often replace the expensive cocoa butter with milk fats and hydrogenated oils.
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