Being fit and healthy doesn’t just entail coming to your physical therapy sessions and it definitely doesn’t mean giving up your favorite foods. In fact, dark chocolate, with over 70% cacao or cocoa, is actually good for you! While the rule doesn’t apply to dark chocolate’s lighter and sweeter counterparts, the appeal of dark chocolate now goes far beyond its bittersweet taste.
According to Authority Nutrition, dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants such as polyphenols, flavanols and catechins, and a 100 gram bar, containing about 70-85% cocoa, also contains roughly 11 grams of fiber, 67% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for Iron, 58% of the RDA for Magnesium, 89% of the RDA for Copper, 98% of the RDA for Manganese, as well as hearty portions of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.
Mary Engler, Ph.D. and Director of the Cardiovascular and Genomics Advanced Practice program at the University of California at San Francisco’s Department of Physiological Nursing, recommends limiting yourself to small amounts of dark chocolate each day, consuming 6.7 grams a day for healthy adults.
So what does all this translate to in terms of perceivable health benefits? Let’s find out!
A Healthier Heart
Dark chocolate isn’t just a romantic treat, but it’s also incredibly good for your heart! Eating a serving of dark chocolate each week, over the long term, can reduce your risk of heart failure and heart disease. The antioxidant compounds or flavonoids in dark chocolate increase the flexibility of your veins and arteries, protecting them against the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (an important marker of cardiovascular disease), while fiber helps to lessen the inflammation of cardiovascular tissue and reduce the risk of stroke.
A Better Brain
Next time you need a boost of brain power, grab a glass of red wine and some dark chocolate, tell your physical therapy expert it’s ok. These flavanol-rich foods dilate blood vessels, boosting oxygen and blood flow to key areas of the brain that improve performance and alertness. Recent research shows that participants who consumed chocolate tended to score higher on cognitive function tests.
Lower Blood Pressure
If you’re plagued by mild to high blood pressure, Dirk Taubert, MD, Ph.D. of the University of Cologne, Germany says that dark chocolate could be beneficial in reducing your blood pressure if you are above the age of 50. Research has shown that eating a small amount of flavanol-rich dark chocolate a day can decrease blood pressure and lower the risk of death from heart disease. But Taubert warns that due to the high fat, sugar, and calorie content in this amount of dark chocolate, patients will have to moderate other parts of their diet to accommodate it.
Improved Sun and Skin Protection
Flavanol-rich dark chocolate may actually help protect your skin from the sun. According to Women’s Health, after three months of eating dark chocolate with high levels of flavanols, patients took twice as long to develop reddening after unprotected contact with sunlight. This is because, according to Authority Nutrition, the minimal erythemal dose (MED), the smallest amount of UVB rays needed to cause skin redness, more than doubled in patients due to their consumption of high flavanol dark chocolate for 12-weeks. But beware of over manufactured chocolate; certain manufacturing processes can destroy the integrity of flavanols.
If you have additional questions about how to integrate healthy diet choices into your physical therapy treatment, contact your local Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy clinic today.