Studies have now shown that chocolate can be good for you, or more specifically the primary ingredient in chocolate: cocoa. It has many health benefits across areas including blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.
It lowers blood sugar and insulin resistance; improves cholesterol profiles by increasing HDL cholesterol and lowering LDL cholesterol oxidation and can normalise blood pressure by making blood vessels more flexible and reactive.
Cocoa is a nutritional powerhouse with a good macronutrient balance: 35% carbohydrates, 50% fats and 15 % protein by caloric contribution. A tablespoon or 5 grams contains just 12 calories and is high in fibre, rich in antioxidants including polyphenols, flavonoids, oligomericproanthocyanidins (OPCs) and catechins; minerals and vitamins such as calcium, some B vitamins including folate, magnesium, iron, copper, sulphur, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.
It also contains substances which increase the production of some neurotransmitters which produce a sense of well-being such as serotonin (a natural anti-depressant), dopamine (the reward neurotransmitter), endorphins (responsible for the ‘runners’ high), phenylethylamine (a chemical produced in the brain when people are ‘in love’), and anandamide (the bliss chemical).
Dark chocolate has also been found to decrease fasting insulin levels by 25% and improve utilisation of glucose by cells Cocoa, being high in flavonols, improves the bio-availability of nitric oxide, which results in better insulin sensitivity.
Studies have shown that consuming dark chocolate without increasing your total caloric intake, decreases blood pressure. It is possible that this may be due to the action of cocoa as a renin-angiotension enzyme inhibitor, the same mechanism by which pharmaceutical antihypertensive medication works.