Buy the Best Chocolate – And Surprise, It’s Healthy!
Chocolate and cocoa have several surprising health benefits! Buy these low carb and sugar-free chocolate at The Low Carb Grocery – and discover the benefits.
Chocolate lovers might be on to something! In this article, we explore the many health benefits of chocolate and products made from cocoa beans. Chocolate does not have to be off-limits for low carb or keto dieters, as certain forms can still be incorporated into many diets – in moderation – for those looking to improve their health. Keep reading to learn about this powerful and delicious substance and discover our favourite low carb and keto-friendly chocolate products!
Below, we’ve gathered 6 surprising health benefits of chocolate and cocoa.
- Powerful source of antioxidants.
Cocoa beans are one of the best sources of antioxidants in the world! Antioxidants are compounds that we obtain from our diet that help fight inflammation in the body. Inflammation occurs when there is a build-up of free radicals (toxins), which are the natural by-products of chemical reactions that occur through metabolic processes. Things that can cause the build-up of too many free radicals in the body include fast foods, alcohol, tobacco smoke, air and water pollutants, pharmaceutical medications and high stress levels. While we always have some level of free radicals circulating around the body, persistent build-up of these toxic waste particles can cause damage to cells, proteins and DNA. This is why it is extremely important to consume antioxidants that help fight off these particles on a daily basis.
Raw, unprocessed cocoa beans are some of the best free radical-fighting substances on earth. While eating raw cocoa beans may not be very palatable, you can still get most of the same antioxidant benefits from organic dark chocolate (it is important to choose organic when possible to avoid inflammation-causing chemicals found in non-organic farming practices). Always aim for 70% cacao or higher when buying dark chocolate to get a good dose of antioxidants and other beneficial minerals.
For those looking for healthy options, check out our vast inventory of keto-friendly or low carb chocolate products!
Another great way to get the antioxidant power of cocoa beans is to buy raw cocoa powder or cacao nibs. These can be added to smoothies, granola, cereal, yogurt and homemade baked goods. These pure forms provide even more benefits than chocolate and still add great flavour to foods! If the taste is too bitter, you can also add a natural sweetener for a delicious, sugar-free way to enjoy chocolate flavours in just about anything!
Cacao vs. Cocoa
You might have seen these names used interchangeably when describing different chocolate products, but there is some distinction to be made between cacao and cocoa. The main difference is in the processing of these two products. Cacao beans are dried, fermented and heated at a lower temperature, making them richer in antioxidants and less sweet. Meanwhile, cocoa is heated at higher temperatures to bring out more of the natural sweetness, but this process sacrifices some of the naturally occurring nutrients and antioxidants. Both are great options and can be used for different functions. For example, cocoa is better for baking (given its sweeter taste), while cacao can be added to more healthful recipes for a powerful boost of nutrients.
- Can improve blood flow and lower blood pressure.
Some of the chemical compounds found in dark chocolate have been shown to have a mild relaxing effect on the arteries, thus lowering blood pressure and allowing blood to flow more easily to all parts of the body. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can cause a number of physical complications. Many people with diabetes may experience high blood pressure as there are some common underlying causes for both of these conditions. High blood sugar levels can cause blood vessels to contract, which can lead to high blood pressure or worsen this condition if it already exists. Low sugar or sugar-free dark chocolate can be a great solution for diabetics wanting to lower their blood pressure levels and substitute other sweet snacks!
- Can reduce insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance is defined as a decreased sensitivity or responsiveness of the body to the hormone, insulin. Insulin is involved in the processing of glucose (sugar) that converts it into useable energy for the body. When our bodies are unable to produce enough or properly use insulin, glucose can remain in the bloodstream and reach dangerous levels that have toxic effects on our health. These include increased risk for heart, kidney and liver diseases, higher risk of infection that particularly affect the limbs, poor vision and brain deterioration. Sustained insulin resistance can also lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, which can have life-threatening complications.
Polyphenols, one of the antioxidants found in dark chocolate, have especially beneficial effects on lowering insulin resistance. This occurs through different mechanisms, one of which involves promoting the uptake of glucose into the tissues and out of the blood stream, thus lowering blood sugar levels. Polyphenols can also improve insulin sensitivity by promoting the secretion of insulin from the pancreas and the activation of insulin receptors in insulin-sensitive tissues.
If you are interested, some other foods that contain high levels of polyphenols include:
- Onions and shallots
- Olives and virgin olive oil
- Sesame seed oil
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Beans and legumes
- Coffee, green tea and red wine
- Spices and seasonings such as cloves, oregano, rosemary, sage, peppermint, ginger, cumin and cinnamon
- Can protect against heart disease.
One of the many ways that dark chocolate lowers several risk factors related to heart disease is by lowering levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. This again relates to dark chocolate’s antioxidant properties, as LDL cholesterol becomes especially dangerous when it reacts with free radicals in the body. By making both LDL particles less reactive and by fighting against free radicals, dark chocolate can lower bad cholesterol levels in the body and protect against heart diseases related to high cholesterol.
As mentioned previously, dark chocolate can also aid in lowering blood pressure and reducing insulin resistance. Both of these conditions, if left unmanaged, can increase the risk for heart complications. Therefore, by lowering risks associated with high blood pressure and insulin resistance/type 2 diabetes, one can also reduce their risk of heart disease.
- Can protect your skin from sun damage.
Flavanol compounds found in dark chocolate have also been shown to protect the skin from damaging UV rays by raising the threshold at which skin begins to burn or show redness. Flavanols also increase blood flow to the skin and can increase skin hydration, which can improve the appearance and health of skin cells. All of these effects can slow premature aging, which is often most apparent in the texture of our skin. Once again, the higher the concentration of cocoa in the chocolate (70%+), the richer it is in these anti-aging nutrients. Be sure to also avoid chocolate with high amounts of sugar in it, as sugar is one of the top contributors to premature aging. This is because excess sugar in the body can bond with proteins and trigger processes that damage collagen (the protein that improves skin elasticity). The Low Carb Grocery carries a number of sugar-free dark chocolate.
- Can improve brain function.
As we now know, cocoa can improve blood flow to several areas of the body – including the brain. This can help improve memory and cognitive function, especially in elderly individuals and those with mental impairments. In addition, dark chocolate contains stimulating substances including caffeine and theobromine. These can help improve brain function and mental focus in the short term. Theobromine, in particular, may prove to be especially helpful in this area since it does not cause feelings of jitteriness and is non-addictive (unlike caffeine). Try snacking on some dark chocolate while you work and find yourself needing a midday boost without having to reach for another cup of java.
Dark chocolate and cacao also contain an amino acid called tryptophan, which gets converted into serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a hormone involved in stabilizing our mood and is known for producing feelings of happiness! Thus, eating chocolate may help alleviate symptoms of mood disorders and improve mental health. Elevated feelings can also help with stress reduction, which is a big contributor to mental health.
We hope that you learned some interesting facts about dark chocolate and cocoa from this article.
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