Another reason for chocolate lovers to munch on their favorite dark chocolate- dark chocolate has antioxidant properties. Now you can have your dark chocolate bar without any guilt!
What are Antioxidants?
A molecule that inhibits the oxidation of any other molecule is called an antioxidant. It is basically a plant compound. The oxidation process involves the transfer of electrons to an oxidizing agent from a substance. Such chemical reactions lead to the release of free radicals which might start chain reactions. If these chain reactions begin in the body, they can be a cause of death or damage.
Antioxidants help the body by terminating these chain reactions; they remove the free-radical intermediates as well as restrain other oxidation reactions. In doing so, they themselves get oxidized and hence are also called reducing agents. The free radicals can cause various problems like heart disease, bad cholesterol, some cancer, etc.
Dark Chocolate Antioxidants
Cocoa (from which your dark chocolate is prepared) is derived from cocoa beans. Cocoa beans contain a rich source of antioxidants also called flavonoids (Catechins and Phenols) and polyphenols. The pungent taste of cocoa is attributed to these flavonoids. These flavanols help in scavenging the free radicals and increase the oxidation level in the blood cells.
The flavanols present in dark chocolate (due to the cocoa beans) prevent cardiovascular problems by:
- Increasing the total antioxidant capacity of serum
- The susceptibility of LDL oxidation is reduced modestly
- Prostaglandins are not adversely affected
- Increasing the concentrations of HDL-cholesterol
Research has shown that the intake of dark chocolate has shown positive results in reducing clotting of blood, improving the flow of blood to brain and heart and lowering of blood pressure. Furthermore, a survey in Oxford University has proven that proportionate amount of dark chocolate intake has given positive results in improving and maintaining the cognitive abilities.
Until today, tea was considered to have the maximum amount of antioxidants. However, the research conducted at Holland’s National Institute of Public Health and Environment proves that dark chocolate contains four times more antioxidants than that in tea.
Dark chocolate (like the red wine) contains phenols, which protect us against heart disease. The phenols check the fat-like substance in the blood from oxidizing and blocking the arteries.
The Alzheimer’s Association states that the high antioxidants in dark chocolate protect the brain from the damaging free radicals, thereby reducing the probability of getting Alzheimer’s disease.
MayoClinic.com says that dark chocolates have more or equal antioxidants than vegetables and fruits have.
Dark Chocolate vs Milk Chocolate
Dark chocolate has the highest amount of antioxidants, whereas milk chocolates contain the least amount. The more the cocoa present in your chocolate, the better your chocolate becomes. Milk chocolate does not contain chocolate liquor either, hence it cannot be regarded as a true chocolate. Moreover, the saturated fats (added sugar present in milk chocolate), reduce the antioxidants during processing.
Tips for More Dark Chocolate Antioxidants Benefits:
- Always choose a dark chocolate having a cocoa content more than 70%.
- Never have your dark chocolate with milk, as milk lowers the absorption level of dark chocolate and also decreases the antioxidant activity.
- Including a small amount of dark chocolate or cocoa drink in your daily diet enhances your health benefits obtained from dark chocolate antioxidants.
- Avoid taking chocolates made from Dutch processed cocoa powder, as it goes through a process of Alkalinization, which makes chocolate lose some of the procyanidins.