For you chocolate lovers out there, rest assured that you don’t have to give up your favorite sweet treat. All you have to do is choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate, and you can feel good about the fact that you are actually eating a health food.

Dark chocolate (70 percent or higher) is loaded with antioxidants and nutrients, so some consider it a superfood. In fact, studies have shown that dark chocolate can help lower your risk of certain diseases and improve overall health. That’s hard to believe for something so delicious, right?

Differences Between Milk and Dark Chocolate

Milk chocolate has twice as much sugar as dark, so it is naturally higher in carbohydrates. Dark chocolate has four times more fiber and higher levels of iron, zinc, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. Dark chocolate is also much higher in caffeine (because cacao has caffeine), and caffeine has been shown to boost weight loss (although you might need to be careful not to eat it before bedtime, as with a cup of coffee). Dark chocolate is also much higher in health-promoting plant compounds that have many unique and important benefits.

dark chocolate has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain, which improves cognitive function!

Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate isn’t just better than milk chocolate (by a long shot), but it is actually an incredibly nutritious food to include in your diet. It should still be considered a treat and not eaten in excess, but there’s nothing wrong with a serving per day (and this is definitely not the case with milk chocolate). Check out the following benefits:

Packed Full of Nutrition

According to NutritionData, a 100 gram (3.5 ounce) serving of 70% or higher dark chocolate offers:

  • 11 grams of fiber
  • 67% of the RDA for Iron
  • 58% of the RDA for Magnesium
  • 89% of the RDA for Copper
  • 98% of the RDA for Manganese
  • Heart healthy monounsaturated fatty acids
  • Important minerals phosphorus, zinc, selenium, and potassium

However, 100 grams of dark chocolate also contains almost 600 calories, which is one main reason that it should be eaten in moderation. An appropriate serving size is about 1-1.5 ounces.

Loaded with Antioxidants

Dark chocolate is most famously known for its high antioxidant profile, and for good reason. Raw cocoa beans actually have one of the highest levels of antioxidants of any food in the world (although, usually the dark chocolate you eat isn’t in its raw, unprocessed form). The antioxidants present in dark chocolate come in the form of flavanols, catechins and polyphenols, among others. One study even found raw cacao to be higher in antioxidants than many antioxidant-packed fruits, like blueberries.

Has the Ability to Lower Blood Pressure

Flavonols in dark chocolate have been found to stimulate the arteries to produce nitric oxide (NO), which is a gas that signals the arteries to relax (among other functions). This naturally lowers blood pressure as resistance to blood flow is decreased.

Lowers Your Risk of Heart Disease

Multiple found that dark chocolate reduces the oxidation of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol particles, leading to less cholesterol-clogged arteries and (therefore) a decreased risk of heart disease.

Improves Brain Function

Last, but certainly not least, dark chocolate has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain, which improves cognitive function. The caffeine and theobromine content of cocoa are thought to be responsible for dark chocolate’s short-term improvements to memory and concentration.

Without further ado, here’s a simple recipe for homemade dark chocolate, which is absolutely delicious (and more affordable than always buying top-quality dark chocolate).

Homemade Dark Chocolate Recipe

*recipe adapted from allrecipes.com.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup pure cocoa (or raw cacao) powder
  • 3 tablespoons of raw honey or grade B maple syrup (or a combination)
  • pinch of pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of cinnamon (optional)

Instructions

  1. First, melt your coconut oil in a saucepan over low-medium heat.
  2. Once your oil is melted, slowly whisk in your cocoa powder, honey or maple syrup, vanilla, and cinnamon. Mix together thoroughly until everything is well combined.
  3. Allow the mixture to cool a bit and then add it to a pliable tray that can be refrigerated, and allow it to cool in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
  4. Feel free to spice this recipe up with your favorite flavors and add-ins, such as unsweetened shredded coconut, orange zest, or finely chopped walnuts. Also, keep in mind that you’ll need to keep this constantly refrigerated, as it will melt fairly quickly at room temperature.
  5. Enjoy!

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