Dark chocolate is a popular treat and surprisingly, has some significant health benefits that are either unknown or overlooked.  Research has shown dark chocolate to contain an excellent source of antioxidants and certain compounds that reduce our risk for heart disease and cancer.  Epicatechin, a flavonoid in most dark chocolates and tea, has been shown to have health benefits.

To best describe this compound, Wikipedia says…“According to Norman Hollenberg, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, epicatechin can reduce the risk of four of the major health problems: stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes. He studied the Kuna people in Panama, who drink up to 40 cups of cocoa a week, and found the prevalence of the ‘big four’ is less than 10%.”

Epicatechin protects brain cells in a stroke by activating biochemical mechanisms that protect the nerves from damage. Animal studies suggest that even after a stroke, the animals given a small amount of epicatechin, no later than 3.5 hours following the research-induced stroke, saw significantly less brain damage that those animals without the epicatechin treatment.

Chocolate can be an excellent source of antioxidants as well. A study conducted by Italy’s National Institute for Food and Nutrition Research in Rome, showed that eating dark chocolate significantly raises antioxidant levels in the body – which have the potential of protecting cells from free radical damage.  Surprisingly, adding milk interferes with the absorption of the antioxidants.

The effect of modest amounts of dark chocolate appears to be not only a healthy snack, but also good news for chocolate lovers!

Picture courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net