National Chocolate Day: 5 Surprising Health Benefits Of Dark Chocolate

by Taylor Carson

No matter how much we would like to deny it, let's face it: We all love chocolate.

But what about craving this sweet treat without the regrets that come with it? Opt for adding some dark chocolate into your diet.

This delicacy from the cocoa tree is actually quite nutritious and has some of the best antioxidants on the planet.

Check out some of the health benefits of cacao below:

1. It benefits the brain.

A recent study by a Loma Linda University research team has concluded that when an individual consumes dark chocolate, naturally-occurring bioactive cocoa flavanols collect in the brain.

Sounds confusing? Simply (and awesomely) this means that cacao can actually help reverse age-related decline in learning and memory by improving blood flow to the brain.

2. It's an efficient way to keep weight down.

Believe it or not, dark chocolate has the ability to help us steer clear of other junk foods. In a 2008 study by the University of Copenhagen, 16 participants were instructed to fast for 12 hours and then to eat dark chocolate.

In a second session, the group was instructed to fast again and then eat milk chocolate.

Within two hours into each session, participants were then told to eat pizza until they felt full. The results were significant; when they ate dark chocolate beforehand, they ate 15 percent less pizza than they did with milk chocolate.

What does this mean, exactly?

Dark chocolate is far more filling than milk chocolate, and can lessen our cravings for other sugary or salty foods.

3. It's good for the heart.

Thanks to the cocoa in dark chocolate, it has been discovered the delicacy can actually battle the long-term risk of stroke and other heart-related issues.

Research presented at a meeting for the American Chemical Society in 2014 reported certain bacteria in the stomach absorbs parts of dark chocolate and transforms them into compounds that improve overall heart health.

John Finley, PhD, one of the leaders of the study, concluded that individuals can reap even more benefits from dark chocolate when they combine it with fruits like pomegranates and acai berries.

4. It helps fight diabetes.

Who would have ever thought to fight diabetes with candy?

A small study led by Dr. Claudio Ferri found that participants who ate 100 grams of dark chocolate (about a candy bar's worth) daily over a two-week period saw a significant reduction in their insulin resistance.

Additionally, dark chocolate consumption proved to increase the body's metabolism of sugar, a process that can lead to diabetes if impaired.

Clearly, this treat is beneficial to all individuals.

5. It can reduce stress.

We all tend to reach for our candy stash when times get tough, probably more often than we'd like to admit.

Guess what? This may not necessarily be a bad thing. Consumption of a small amount of dark chocolate on a daily basis can help reduce the production of hormones that lead to stress, according to a 2012 study by Nestlé.

The study monitored 30 healthy adults who ate about four squares of a candy bar every day for two weeks.

It found that each participant who started with high levels of stress experienced a reduction of stress-related hormones.

Nestlé scientist, Dr. Sunil Kochhar, says:

When you are stressed, your body's chemistry becomes unbalanced. Eating a moderate amount of dark chocolate on a daily basis can help to balance the body chemistry of people who are stressed.

Dark chocolate is filled with nutrients that can positively affect your health. Studies have shown time and time again just how powerful this sweet treat is.

So, next time you feel like you cannot fight off your cravings, ditch the milk chocolate and reach for this instead.

Your body will most definitely thank you for it.