organic chocolate – healthy superfoods – by Dr. Alberto Parra
Chocolate is one of the world’s famous foods, and it is not hard to find a chocolate bar in the next store or somewhere nearby. However, not every brand is appropriate if you want to benefit from the whole array of health properties of chocolate. As you will see next, it is a powerful aid for your cardiovascular system, it contains antioxidants, and it may have an essential role in the modulation of the immune system. But industrialization and marketing have recently made challenging to choose a healthy option regarding chocolate, and the following health benefits of cacao and chocolate only applies for organic chocolate without added sugar, the most reliable way to attain every benefit for your health.
Nutritional aspects of cocoa and chocolate
Cocoa and chocolate are both an excellent source of lipids, carbohydrates, and minerals. Unprocessed cocoa also contains a seed coat loaded with fiber, but in the process of creating cocoa powder and chocolate, the fiber content is reduced. For some time, it was assumed that chocolate was not suitable for cardiovascular health because it has around 60% of saturated fats against some 40% of unsaturated fats. However, more than half of those saturated fats are in the form of stearic acid, which does not elevate blood cholesterol, either because it is not absorbed well, or because it is rapidly converted by the liver into oleic acid. So, in simple words, if you hear chocolate has plenty of fats and it is not good for your heart, that’s a common misconception, obsolete since 1988, when scientists started to realize how stearic acid behaves in our body.
Organic, dark chocolate without added sugar has a higher amount of mineral than milk chocolate and other variations. Chocolate contains magnesium, which is essential for protein synthesis, to potentiate brain activity and metabolize energy and bone tissue. It contains copper, a trace mineral which is used in the organism to activate a few key enzymes to create neurotransmitters and collagen molecules. Finally, chocolate is an important source of dietary potassium, which maintains the normal balance along with sodium and it is essential to regulate our blood pressure.
Organic chocolate for your cardiovascular health
As you can see, far from causing heart problems, chocolate can be a fantastic aid to your cardiovascular health, as long as you consume organic sources without added sugar. Additional to the nutritional content, chocolate also has flavonoids, which are polyphenolic compounds with many different health properties, all of them aiming at improving your cardiovascular health. Even if there are not yet studies about the incidence of cardiovascular events in people who consume chocolate, there is enough data to know that these molecules are powerful antioxidants with anti-aggregation properties, both highly valued in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
The antioxidant effects of chocolate: These are given by the flavanols, which are known as the major antioxidant group in cocoa. These components have a potent activity against oxygen radicals, even compared to famous antioxidant foods like blueberries and garlic. Cocoa has epicatechin oligomers known to protect our cholesterol molecules from oxidation, which is one of the steps for the formation of atheromatous plaques. By reducing the oxidation of LDL molecules and the formation of atherosclerosis, organic chocolate without added sugar may be a tasty way to decrease your risk of cardiovascular events such as myocardial infarction and stroke.
Effects of chocolate on platelet activation: The antioxidant effects of chocolate by themselves may contribute significantly to the reduction of cardiovascular risk. But that’s not the end of it because organic chocolate also has an impact on platelet activation, one of the steps in the formation of thrombi, and the preliminary condition for many cardiovascular events. Platelets are essential to keep the integrity of our blood vessels, but when they aggregate uncontrollably, they cause thrombosis and atherosclerosis. Not all flavonoids have effects over platelet activation, but those found in chocolate have been found to reduce platelet aggregation shortly after being consumed. According to some studies, this change in the behavior of platelet is thought to be through a modulation of two critical substances for the blood vessels: an increased activity of prostacyclin, which inhibits platelet aggregation and relaxes the blood vessels, and a reduction in the activity of leukotrienes, which are vasoconstrictors that stimulate platelet aggregation.
Chocolate and immune function
Closely related to the antioxidant effects of chocolate, it also displays a role in the inflammatory response and modulates the immune function. Chocolate seems to change the way T cells behave in the gut and the rest of the body. It causes a change in the gut-associated lymphoid tissue and regulates the production of immunoglobulins, the circulating antibodies capable of defending the body against invaders in normal circumstances and causing allergies when they are out of control. More scientific research will be needed to elucidate how does chocolate influence the immune function, and the application of flavonoids in this field. However, it is still clear that organic chocolate without added sugar is an unexpected ally for our cardiovascular health, one that’s affordable, tasty and versatile.