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Singing the praises of dark chocolate: our favorite antioxidant
Those of us that are known choco-holics did our biggest happy dance when University of Cologne in Germany came out with their study results that dark chocolate lowers blood pressure. Combine that study with the report by the National Institute of Food and Nutrition in Rome, Italy that stated dark chocolate is an excellent antioxidant, and we are in a win-win situation.
This is, by no means, an excuse to go on dark chocolate binge eating. It also has to be remembered that these reports relate to dark chocolate only; not milk chocolate or white chocolate. Additionally, the dark chocolate should not be combined with drinking milk, as the milk may interfere with the antioxidant absorption. Dark chocolate is very rich in flavanols, which are a type of flavanoid antioxidant.
Antioxidants are the helpful factors that destroy the free radicals in the body. Free radicals have an incredible destructive rate on the cells, which increases as we age. Blood pressure problems are another age-related difficulty. The tests and studies have shown significant reduction in blood pressure from the subjects that participated.
There has been an additional study by professor of nutrition, Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD at Penn State University that has shown one more benefit of dark chocolate. The dark chocolate with higher cocoa powder levels seems to have the ability to lower the bad (LDL) cholesterol level and raise the good (HDL) cholesterol level. The research also validated the previous studies on the topic of dark chocolate as an excellent antioxidant.
University of California, Davis decided to jump into the research as well. Their research was based on giving ten healthy test subjects 1 1/3 oz of dark chocolate with high flavanol content vs. dark chocolate with a lower flavanol content. Again, the study results showed the benefits of the high flavanol group had a significant reduction in the LDL cholesterol level , and increase in the HDL cholesterol level and elevated levels of antioxidants in the body.
Studies using cocoapro cocoa in a test tube environment demonstrated that it has the ability to reduce the clotting factor of blood platelets in the same manner as aspirin. This could offer stability in the plaque within the arterial walls and reduce the ability of clots to form and then travel, causing strokes and heart attacks. A benefit beyond that of aspirin is that cocoapro also increases the flexibility of the arteries which encourages good flow of the blood. Arteries can become stiffened as we age, causing an array of medical problems, including high blood pressure. Free flowing blood also assists in getting oxygen to the brain, which is one of the factors that is believed to cause dementia.
People that suffer from diabetes have been forced to look at the good chocolate from afar. However, dark chocolate has been shown in studies to have an excellent effect on blood sugar levels as well as diabetic symptoms. There is a specific type of dark chocolate, high in flavanols and low in glycemic sugar content that is for those suffering from diabetes.
Chronic inflammation and the pain associated with these disorders is on the rise in our country. As the Baby Boomers age, we are seeing a dramatic increase of these types of problems. More studies are now showing that dark chocolate also has major anti-inflammatory agent. When free radicals attack the tissues and cells, the body reacts with a continued inflammatory response. The antioxidants in high flavanol dark chocolate literally rids the body of the free radicals and thereby reduces the chronic inflammation scenario.
There is one down side to this whole topic: dark chocolate has a large fat content. The answer to this dilemma is to eat dark chocolate sparingly, along with a healthy diet. We can combine dark chocolate intake with fruits and nuts to add even more antioxidant power. Antioxidants assist in the anti-aging process and seems to cover a number of ailments that plague us as we age. A tip from professor of chemistry, Joe Vinson, PhD at the University of Scranton, PA indicates that you have to focus on dark cocoa, the powder (not the instant stuff) packs the most powerful punch of all of the good benefits.
The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.