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Dark Chocolate, a Plant-Based Food

When you see chocolate candy bars on the shelf at the grocery store, it’s easy to forget where chocolate comes from. That’s because those milk chocolate bars have been pumped full of unnecessary sugars and fats. Dark chocolate is another thing entirely, being much closer to the original plant-based food. In moderation, not only is it a wonderful treat, but also very good for you.

Heart Health: Dark chocolate is stocked with antioxidants that protect cells from free radicals, unstable oxygen molecules that contribute to cellular damage and aging. Antioxidants also prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Oxidation makes this cholesterol sticky, leading to clots and plaque buildup. Dark chocolate has more antioxidants than blueberries or even red wine. It also lowers blood pressure by relaxing and widening the arteries, leaving them healthy and flexible. By removing plaque buildup, it also helps prevents heart and vascular disease.

Diabetes: Diabetics have to watch their sugar intake. Milk chocolate can raise sugar levels too fast. On the other hand, dark chocolate has a low glycemic index. The sweet treat doesn’t cause sugar spikes like other candies, but still gives that satisfied feeling that comes with eating something decadent, like a delicacy or dessert.

Minerals: Highly processed chocolate loses some of the original minerals found in cocoa beans as it is cooked and diluted multiple times. Dark chocolate, being less processed, is naturally high in vital minerals. It contains copper, magnesium, potassium, and iron.

Memory: Sweets often cause hyperactivity, but studies show that dark chocolate may improve memory and focus. Eat a small square before a test or before a high stress work-day and notice the difference it makes.

Tooth Decay: Candy leads to tooth decay. We all know it—have known it since we were children. But, dark chocolate actually kills the bacteria responsible for the acids that lead to cavities and tooth decay. How’s that for an unexpected bonus in a sweet?

Well Being: Dark chocolate contains serotonin, our brain’s natural feel good molecule. Many people feel a rush of well-being when eating chocolate. It also boosts production of other endorphins that result in feelings of pleasure, decreased pain, and contentment.

Fat: Unlike milk chocolate, dark chocolate contains no added butter fat or sugars. The cocoa butter in dark chocolate is mainly made of oleic acid, a heart healthy fat, and stearic acid, a fat that doesn’t affect cholesterol levels. Only a third of the fat in dark chocolate affects cholesterol. This means it isn’t time to go all chocolate all the time, but in moderation it’s a great addition to a healthy diet.

A few squares of dark chocolate a week is a delicious way to get your sweets and plenty of healthful benefits along with it. Don’t forget to reach for other foods high in antioxidants too, like apples, berries, and plums.

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