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14 Health Benefits of Eating Dark Chocolate

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6. Dark Chocolate Can Lower Your Blood Pressure

Another benefit of chocolate's amazing medicinal profile—it can lower your blood pressure. Chocolate can be a cheaper and more enjoyable way of lowering blood pressure than medical options.

A recent study done at Harvard looked at 24 studies done on chocolate in the past. More than 1,000 people were involved in these studies which collectively concluded that dark chocolate—between 50 and 70 percent cocoa—lowered the blood pressure of all participants.

The benefits were greater in those who already suffered from hypertension. This suggests that the flavonols responsible are more effective when blood pressure is high.

While fruit, vegetables and tea are known sources of antioxidants, research shows that the cocoa bean is more potent, with one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants and beneficial nutrients in the world.

7. Dark Chocolate Can Help Control Your Cough

One of the chemicals in cocoa, theobromine, is known to antagonize the activity of the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is a part of your brain and its activation can trigger coughing fits. Scientists are looking into creating medication for coughs that uses theobromine.

A study on chocolate's effects as a cough-suppressant found it to be more effective than common cold medicines, even ones containing codeine, a weak narcotic.

They tested this by giving subjects different cough medicines. One group received common cough medicine with codeine; the second group received a solution of theobromine and the third group was placebo. They were exposed to capsaicin (the chemical responsible for making chili peppers spicy). Their intention was to see how much capsaicin was required to induce five coughs. Having one's lungs exposed to capsaicin will usually cause even the most hardened chili-head to break into a coughing fit.

The group with theobromine required about a third more capsaicin to cough five times. There was no difference between codeine and the placebo group.

8. Dark Chocolate Can Help in Pregnancy

Recent studies have shown that chocolate improves fetal growth. Some mothers may be at risk for preeclampsia, when the blood supply to the fetus is cut off or restricted. This occurs due to high blood pressure, which is natural during pregnancy.

A study shows that regular chocolate consumption can reduce the risk of preeclampsia by lowering blood pressure.

It is undetermined which compounds in chocolate are responsible for this effect. The study's two groups consumed high- and low-flavonol chocolate. Both saw significant improvements in blood flow to the fetus. This suggests that chocolate's benefits may extend beyond its flavonol content.

9. Dark Chocolate Can Improve Brain Function

Only lately has chocolate been studied for its benefits to human cognition.

This study delves into the cognitive benefits of chocolate consumption. High intake of high-quality chocolate enabled improvements of cognitive processing, visual-spatial awareness, abstract reasoning, scanning, working memory and improved Global Composite scores.

An ongoing 40-year study on the effects of chocolate on cognitive function was recently finished. The study used data from the beginning of the study and compared it through cross-sectional study. This might not mean that chocolate makes people smarter—perhaps smart people happen to eat chocolate. Regardless, the study also concluded that all the types of intelligence measured previously were increased by chocolate consumption—along with spoken word recall.

A study done by British psychologists shows that the flavonols in chocolate specifically help people with their mental math. During the study, people were tested counting backward on a randomly generated number test before and after drinking a cup of hot cocoa. This means gorging on chocolate before your exam could be a good idea.

10. Dark Chocolate is a Huge Source of Antioxidants

Dark chocolate contains very high amounts of a number of potent antioxidants. A study linked calculated the Relative Antioxidant Capacity Index (RACI) by isolating free radicals and antioxidants extracted from chocolate. Free radicals are the prerequisite for cancer and antioxidants can help destroy free radicals before they spread.

The two opposing extracts were essentially left in vivo (outside of the human body) to battle each other. The resulting statistics show that chocolate's antioxidants (at least, in vivo) are extremely effective at reducing free radicals. While they may behave differently in the body, relevant studies also show that chocolate is effective at battling free radicals in vitro.

Chocolate has a huge number of biologically active compounds with antioxidant activity. It's filled with polyphenols, flavonols and catechins and even theobromine (the compound touted to have antidepressant effects) acts as an antioxidant.

11. Dark Chocolate Can Protect Your Skin From the Sun

Dark chocolate has been known to prevent damage from ultraviolet rays, the light emitted by the sun.

The most effective way to reap this effect would be to eat straight cocoa beans. These are often available at health food stores.

If you can't use raw cocoa, high-quality dark chocolate will still suffice. The flavonols in 85 percent dark chocolate are still present enough to have an effect.

One study measured the minimal erythema dose, a measure that shows how much exposure will begin to negatively affect skin. A high MED is good because it means you need to be exposed to more UV light to take damage.

MED rose dramatically for the study group consuming cocoa rich in flavonols for a few weeks. The group that didn't consume any, or consumed chocolate lower in flavonols, showed no change.

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