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Crunch Up on Dark Chocolate!

Dark chocolate has been on everybody’s list of superfoods for years. It has been shown to lower blood pressure, raise good cholesterol, and it’s full of antioxidants. But two new studies show its health benefits are even more powerful than we thought.

Besides being good for your heart, dark chocolate fights stress and inflammation. It boosts memory and immunity. And it even improves vision.

Researchers at Loma Linda University looked at the impact of dark chocolate on a cellular level. They found that dark chocolate with 70% or more of cacao:

  • Reduces inflammation. It’s the root of many serious illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.
  • Enhances neuroplasticity. This is the process by which the brain forms new neural connections to improve memory.
  • Increases immune response. Dark chocolate helps activate disease-fighting T cells.
  • Improves mood. After eating dark chocolate, subjects showed brain waves associated with better mood and less stress.

Dr. Lee S. Berk led the study. He’s a researcher in psychoneuroimmunology and food science at Loma Linda. He said high cacao content is the key to dark chocolate’s benefits. “The higher the concentration of cacao, the more positive the impact on cognition, memory, mood, immunity, and other beneficial effects,” he said.

Dark Chocolate Improves Your Eyesight

Another recent study looked at dark chocolate’s effect on vision.

Researchers tested the vision of 30 healthy adults using a standard letter-based eye chart. Then they divided them into two groups. One ate a 1.5-ounce Trader Joe’s 72% Cacao Dark Chocolate bar. The other group ate a Trader Joe’s Crispy Rice Milk Chocolate bar.

Two hours later, scientists tested the subjects’ vision again. Those eating the milk chocolate had no change. But participants eating dark chocolate had slightly improved eyesight. The study found that they showed “enhancements in visual acuity and large-letter contrast.”

Researchers conducting both studies said that dark chocolate’s benefits are due largely to compounds called flavanols. They are powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents.

Dark chocolate also contains beneficial soluble fiber and vital minerals such as magnesium and potassium.

But the key to eating dark chocolate is to find a much higher cacao content than that of a typical chocolate treat. The vast majority of chocolate bars you’ll see are made with milk chocolate, full of fatty calories and offering no health benefits whatsoever. To have any positive effects, the dark chocolate should be at least 70 percent cacao!

And it’s important to make sure you’re eating the right kind of dark chocolate. Some brands are loaded with sugar. And the lower the cacao content, the less health benefits you’ll receive.

Some products even contain lead and cadmium. Both are toxins. So it’s important to know which ones to buy and which to avoid.

A consumer advocacy group, tested 50 chocolate brands for lead and cadmium. It found the following products to contain no lead or cadmium:

  • DeMet’s Flipz 50% Cacao Dark Chocolate Covered Pretzels
  • Ghirardelli Intense Dark Midnight Reverie
  • Jo’s Candies Dark Chocolate Covered Graham Crackers
  • Lindt Excellence A Touch of Sea Salt
  • Starbuck’s Dark Chocolate Covered Grahams

We recommend two of these products: the Ghirardelli Midnight Reverie and the Lindt Excellence a Touch of Sea Salt. Not only are they free of lead and cadmium, but they contain no carb-heavy pretzels or graham crackers… Just pure health-boosting dark chocolate.

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