Antioxidants and Cacao Health Benefits of Chocolate


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  I am pleased to re-post my most popular article and it is of course on a delicious subject!  Chocolate.  Stay safe everyone and I will be back with a new post in January

Cacao has been found to be higher in antioxidant flavanols that either red wine or green tea. Cacao is also higher than most antioxidant fruits and berries.

Unprocessed cacao has an enormous 10% antioxidant concentration level. It is twice as high as the antioxidant concentration in processed cocoa and ten times as high as blueberries!   Researchers at Cornell University have shown that cocoa contains more antioxidants per cup than a similar serving of red wine or green tea and may be a healthier choice.

Antioxidants vs Free Radicals: Cell Wars

What are these antioxidants that have everyone talking and why is a high concentration of antioxidants important?

Antioxidants are phenolic substances in our food which have a protective effect on our bodies.  They protect out DNA by scavenging the free radicals that cause damage.  Free radicals are the by-products of oxygen use by our cells.  Antioxidants remove the free radicals and prevent and repair the damage done by them.  The protective effects of antioxidants encompass

  • Heart disease
  • Macular degeneration
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Aging

Phenolic compounds (flavanols) are the compounds which protect plants from insects and disease.

Cacao And Your Body

The Journal of Clinical Nutrition has reported that the antioxidants in chocolate protect the heart and circulatory system.  The magazine Circulation and the Journal of the American College of Nutrition report that eating a few squares of dark chocolate daily increases the blood vessels ability to dilate.

This vasodilation has the benefit of lowering blood pressure.  It is  also key to why cacao can assist with migraines.

It is thought that dark chocolate also improves the cellular functioning of those cells lining blood vessels.  It causes the blood vessels to be more flexible and lowers the risk of hardening of the arteries.
The antioxidants in cacao are also shown to lower LDL (bad cholesterol)

Research done at the University of California at Davis has shown that the antioxidant levels in the blood of subjects that consumed semisweet chocolate rose for six hours afterward.

Antioxidants and Dairy

The antioxidants in cacao are obviously beneficial.  Unfortunately when cacao is combined with dairy products the antioxidant benefits are cancelled out.  Studies show that dairy products actually block the absorption of antioxidants in chocolate.

In order to get the maximum benefits of enjoying a cup of cocoa it should be prepared with soy milk or even better with almond milk.

It is in your best interest to develop a taste for dark chocolate and if possible for the unrefined cacao nibs.  The unrefined nibs are the part of the cocoa bean that is processed to create chocolate.  They taste like delicious dark chocolate and avoid any allergic reactions that many people have to the refined chocolate.

It is not often that science discovers that what we love to eat is also good for us.  In the case of chocolate it has been shown that is the number one antioxidant food on the planet.  This is good news to chocoholics everywhere!