When most people think about eating nutritious foods and maintaining a healthy diet, chocolate is not typically one of the first things that come to mind. However, studies show that chocolate can offer various surprising health benefits. Before we get too carried away, this is not an endorsement to engage in an all-chocolate diet. But eating chocolate in moderation can have positive effects on health.
Does all chocolate offer health benefits?
Not all chocolate provides health benefits to the consumer; most chocolate does not. Highly processed chocolate, which makes up a very high percentage of all chocolate available on the market, has the opposite effect. Processed chocolate high in artificial sugars and lactose ingredients generally contributes to unhealthy blood sugar levels and potentially type 2 diabetes.
Choose Dark Chocolate
Look no further if you have been looking for an excellent excuse to eat chocolate. Dark chocolate offers many positive health benefits that can be great for seniors and their overall health.
For chocolate to be considered healthy, it must contain 60% cacao at the very least. Some experts recommend choosing dark chocolate made with 70-85% cacao to experience optimal health benefits.
Dark chocolate with a high percentage of cacao is rich in health-boosting compounds called polyphenols. Polyphenols deliver antioxidant properties to help reduce chronic inflammation, cell damage, and the risk of other health conditions. Polyphenols can be found in various fruits and vegetables, tea, and red wine.
Aside from providing excellent antioxidant power, dark chocolate also contains an abundance of minerals, including:
Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
Antioxidant-rich dark chocolate in its purest and healthiest forms can offer a range of positive health benefits.
- Promotion of Heart Health: Studies show dark chocolate eaten in moderation can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by one-third.
- Potential Cancer-Fighting Abilities: Flavonoids are a class of polyphenols found in dark chocolate. Flavonoids are also powerful antioxidants that help regulate cell activity to fight toxins and carcinogens.
- Good for Cholesterol Levels: Cocoa Butter contains healthy monounsaturated fats, which can positively affect cholesterol. Two types of cholesterol are found in the body: HDL and LDL. Dark chocolate can help boost “good” HDL cholesterol levels while reducing “bad” LDL cholesterol. Reduced LDL plaque buildup in blood vessels and arteries improves cardiovascular health.
- Improved Cognitive Function: Flavonoids are also known for boosting brain health. Neuroprotective properties can help to preserve memory function and curtail symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Better blood flow also means more blood to the brain to deliver essential nutrients and oxygen.
- Blood Sugar Balance: Polyphenols can also improve insulin sensitivity to naturally balance blood glucose levels. This helps reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Skin Health: Antioxidant properties and increased blood flow can also have positive health benefits for the skin. Dark chocolate compounds improve skin density and hydration, offering greater protection against harmful UV rays, sunburns, and skin cancer.
- Mood Booster: The mood-boosting effects of dark chocolate run deeper than the general idea that eating chocolate equals happiness. Dark chocolate contains serotonin, a feel-good chemical produced naturally in the body to elevate mood and feelings of satisfaction. It also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkiller. On top of that, dark chocolate also contains tryptophan, the amino acid in turkey that produces that happy, cozy feeling.
On top of these impressive health benefits, chocolate tastes great! Seniors can feel good about an indulgence that is also advantageous to their bodies and minds.
Moderation is Key
With many of life’s great joys and pleasures, moderation is paramount in achieving the intended benefits and avoiding negative repercussions. Even with all the excellent health benefits that chocolate can offer seniors, eating it in excess has significant consequences. Chocolate can be high in sugar, calories, and caffeine, so while seniors can enjoy some chocolate, they should also use discretion and try not to go overboard.
The problem with chocolate is that many processed treats and chocolatey junk foods are full of additives, sugars, dairy, and other ingredients that counteract the beneficial aspects that chocolate can have for the body.
Eating pure chocolate products with healthy ingredients can help seniors find a balance between enjoying some chocolatey goodness and benefitting overall health.