The Light Side of Dark Chocolate

chocolate darth vader

This cool photo is pinned on Christina’s Pinterest wall.

I am a part of the original Star Wars generation.  I remember waiting in long lines that wrapped around the theater to watch the movies.  Everything was compared to the light side of the Force or the dark side, including foods.  As a wrestler, I avoided junk food like the plague.  They were part of the dark side!  Lumped in with candy, cookies and other sugary sweets, chocolate was also on the dark side,  a part of the dietary Empire of Evil.   But as time went on, and scientists and nutritionists got a little smarter, it started to become clear that chocolate wasn’t as bad as it was cracked up to be.

In fact lately, chocolate, specifically dark chocolate,  has been earning a place as a Jedi master in the supplement universe when it comes to improving health. And one of the main ways that chocolate can benefit your health is by increasing your nitric oxide levels!

If you have been reading this site, you have learned how exceedingly powerful nitric oxide is at improving general health.  Nitric oxide acts on receptors in our blood vessels and causes them to dilate, or expand.  This dilation lowers blood pressure and increases blood flow, which can increase the amount of oxygen and nutrients that get to our organs and muscles.  High blood pressure has been linked to many types of heart disease and increased likelihood of stroke, as well as increased occurrence of dementia and general cognitive decline.  Whereas nitric oxide has been shown to positively affect brain function, strength and endurance, diabetic neuropathy, heart function, and sexual dysfunction.

And now we know that dark chocolate and other cocoa products can reduce blood pressure and improve your health!

In a recent study, it was found that cocoa had a robust effect on the cardiovascular health of the Kuna Indians. Another article in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that the intake of cacao products, 100 grams daily, could positively improve cardiovascular health by reducing hypertension in test subjects.  This article in the PubMed database indicates that 30 g of chocolate consumed daily, by both male and female test subjects, significantly lowered blood pressure and increased serum nitric oxide levels.

Scientists think that the main reason that dark chocolate increases nitric oxide levels in the body is because it is rich in flavanols.   Other foods rich in flavanols include grapes, blackberries, legumes, and green tea as well as red wine.  But the highest concentration of flavanols appears to be in cacao.  Dark chocolate has a higher concentration of pure cacao than milk or white chocolate.  The darker the chocolate, the more cacao, and hence the higher the concentration of flavanols, and the more the benefit.

Now if you are like me, you find dark chocolate a little bitter.    So, what good will dark chocolate do you if you don’t eat it because you don’t like the flavor?

How is this for a workaround:

 

Chocolate dipped strawberries

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries!

Not only do you get the benefits of eating dark chocolate, but you also benefit from eating one of the healthiest foods, a sweet, delicious berry with the highest concentration of nitrates!  Nitrates, as you know are found in currents, gooseberries, raspberries, and cherries, as well as vegetables like spinach, kale,carrots, beets, and radishes.  Of the fruits, strawberries have the highest concentration of nitrates.

And dipping those beauties in dark chocolate will give you a burst of nitric oxide your blood vessels, heart, brain, and other body parts  will thank you for.  So, find a gourmet dark chocolate gift basket for your significant other today!

Here are some other studies that have shown chocolate to improve endothelial function due to increases in nitric oxide production:

To see other foods rich that will help you increase your bodies nitric oxide levels, check out my article on Foods that Boost Nitric Oxide and  Mediterranean Diet Can Increase Nitric Oxide and Longevity.