We’re about to change everything you think you know about chocolate – this stuff isn’t just a guilty pleasure that you stash away in your drawer for those stressful days; it’s a powerhouse of superfood proportions! From mental health to a reduced risk for type 2 diabetes, here are a few reasons dark chocolate should be a household staple.
Graphic by Grace Martin
May boost mood
It’s not all about the physical benefits with dark chocolate – turns out there are a host of mental health benefits too! (As if you needed more reason to enjoy a piece of chocolate, right?) Research shows that a chocolate with 85% or higher cacao content can provide these everyday benefits, so don’t go settling for milk chocolate! A study found that regular consumption of this stuff boosted the diversity of the gut microbiome – this is vital for our mental health; there’s a reason they call the gut our second brain – and reduced the severity of negative emotions and moods. We also know that dark chocolate can have a powerful effect on our hormones and neurotransmitters – it’s known to boost endorphins; the feel-good chemicals that leave us feeling high and reduce pain and stress.
Protects your nervous system
Dark chocolate contains several compounds that are beneficial for the nervous system, including what are known as flavonoids. Flavonoids are antioxidants that can help protect the cells in the nervous system from damage caused by free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can harm cells and tissues. Dark chocolate contains flavanols; a type of flavonoid, and these have been shown to have neuroprotective effects. Flavanols can also help improve blood flow to the brain, which can enhance cognitive function and reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. Theobromine is a stimulant that can improve alertness, focus and mood, but like with everything, it's important not to overdo it! (Don't panic; you'd have to down 85 bars to take it too far, and at that point you'd have a lot more to worry about than theobromine poisoning!) Dark chocolate can also increase the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which support a healthy nervous system.
May prevent insulin resistance
Those flavanols we mentioned before come into play here – they’ve been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce insulin resistance. First – let’s unpack insulin; this hormone plays a crucial role in regulating blood-sugar levels by allowing cells in the body to use that sugar for energy. Insulin resistance occurs when cells become less responsive to insulin, which can lead to high blood-sugars and, eventually, type 2 diabetes. Flavanols have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity by increasing the uptake of glucose by cells, enhancing insulin signalling pathways, and reducing inflammation in the body. Flavanols can also stimulate the production of nitric oxide, which can improve blood flow and reduce oxidative stress, both of which can contribute to insulin resistance – not to mention the toll they take on our entire bodies, from skin rashes to mood swings. Dark chocolate also contains magnesium, which is an important mineral involved in glucose metabolism. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, and consuming dark chocolate can help boost magnesium levels in the body. An added perk is you might just find yourself experiencing fewer cramps too!
That’s not all! Take a look at some of the other reasons to add a bit of dark chocolate to your diet:
- Reduces risk for heart disease
- Reduces blood pressure
- Fights toxins
Remember, it's important to enjoy dark chocolate in moderation as it is still high in calories and fat. It’s also essential to choose your brand carefully! Some sneak copious amounts of added sugar in while others leave the nasties out. The higher the cacao content, the less sugar you’ll find. We love a good 90% block – it’s rich, satisfying and full of those health-boosting antioxidants, magnesium and fibre. It makes for the perfect after-dinner treat with a warming cup of tea.
Whether you’re looking to eat healthier or fight off a sugar addiction, we’re here to help. Join us for the 8-Week Program and we’ll help you change the way you look at food – and that doesn’t mean you have to follow restrictive diets or miss out on your favourite foods; we believe you can still enjoy delicious food without jeopardising your health. You might even consider gifting your mum with the program! With celebrity chef Sarah Glover on our panel of experts, you’ll have an array of fun recipes at your fingertips, along with our own exclusive armoury of simple, tasty and healthy recipes for everything from daily meals to impressive entertaining. We know it can be hard to stick to your health goals – especially when you’re trying to manage it alone. When you sign up with us, you’ll have access to clear-cut meal plans, community support and exclusive access to our sugar-free content. Here’s what’s on offer:
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