The joy that chocolate has provided continues. This comfort food, made from cocoa bean is rich in flavonoids, the type of plant chemicals that are found naturally in chocolate. Flavonoids’ unique chemical structure exerts antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cell-protective effects.

Chocolates most especially the dark ones, is regarded as healthy because of flavonols, a main type of flavonoid with antioxidant qualities which have been shown to lower blood pressure, boost blood flow and reduce blood clots.

Apart from lowered blood pressure, dark chocolate can prevent you from heart attack and stroke. A large Australian study reveals that daily consumption of dark chocolate could prevent major cardiovascular events in people with risk factor for heart disease. More than its heart benefits, consuming dark chocolate may protect you against the dangers of diabetes. Studies reported that the antioxidant in dark chocolate might help the body use its insulin more efficiently to control blood sugar. Further, dark chocolate can boost blood flow to brain that could aid in alertness and cognition.

Dark chocolate has cocoa butter, the fatty part of cocoa bean that provides health benefits not only for the heart but also for maintaining cholesterol levels. Likewise, dark chocolate has stearic acid, a saturated fat seen in dark chocolate that offers neutral effect on blood cholesterol level.

Dark chocolate is also a good source of magnesium and iron. Eating 100 grams of dark chocolate can give you its health benefits. However, to reap the healthy gains of dark chocolate, you have to identify the right kind. Check the label if the dark chocolate has cocoa solid listed first on the ingredients list.  Cocoa solids contain the desired flavonols that is responsible for heart health protection. You need to know its high cocoa’s percentage. Look for 70 percent of cocoa solid. This means, the chocolate tastes slightly bitter. That powerful flavor allows you to have a small portion size to optimize its benefits.

In addition, pay attention to labels. If the product has hydrogenated fat or oil, you should avoid choosing that kind of chocolate.  The presence of this fat is a sign that other vegetable fat replaced the cocoa butter or the natural cacao fat, which is risky for the health.  Hydrogenated fat intake of any amount associates with elevated bad cholesterol, increased risk for stroke and heart attack, which is the complete opposite of flavonols.

In choosing the right kind of chocolate, follow these helpful tips:

  1. Check the labels. Real dark chocolate has cocoa butter as fat. If hydrogenated fat or partially hydrogenated fat is present on the label or there is non-specification of the vegetable fat, that is not dark chocolate. It is purely a chocolate candy.
  2. Store the chocolate at a cool temperature. Before eating the chocolate, it should be well wrapped and should be kept at a cool room, away from heat and moisture. If you will put it inside the chiller, wrap it well and place it in an airtight container.
  3. Choose quality over quantity. Remember to look for 70 percent cocoa content to know that that your dark chocolate is quality.
  4. Avoid buying unlabelled chocolate. Do not buy the product if the ingredients are not identified in the packaging.
  5. Pay attention to price. The most expensive chocolate does not necessitate that it is the best one. See tip number one. Check the label first.

In choosing chocolate to be used for cooking or baking, the following tips are necessary.

  1. Read the label. Determine the origin, ingredients and composition of the chocolate. If none of these is available, assume that you may not be getting the purest one.
  2. Unsweetened baking chocolate offers the longest and can provide the best chocolate flavor.
  3. Authentic dark chocolate has longer shelf life and should have at least 60 percent cocoa liquor.

It is surprising to note that chocolate has variety of benefits yet consuming it in moderation is still the key in reaping its health rewards.

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