Who doesn’t like dessert? For the most part, nearly all desserts are heavily processed and are rife with refined sugars and inflammation-promoting fats, like vegetable oils and even trans fats. Simply put, they are not a great option to help you lose fat, boost your metabolism, or optimize your health. But, what if you could literally have your cake and eat it too? Well, with high-quality dark chocolate, you may be able to do precisely that.
You see, cocoa (which is the primary ingredient in dark chocolate) contains up to three times more antioxidants than green tea, and it’s these polyphenols that appear to be responsible for the health-conferring benefits of cocoa. For instance, cocoa, and therefore dark chocolate, contains a compound called theobromine that has been shown to suppress appetite and increase the body’s ability to breakdown fat.
What’s more, in a recent study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition where researchers found significant insulin sensitivity benefits associated with the naturally-occurring polyphenols found in dark chocolate rich in cocoa. Insulin sensitivity is a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to fat burning, as it holds a key to unlocking your body’s ability to burn fat effectively—not to mention your ability to eat more carbs without storing them as fat.
What’s more, dark chocolate may help “set the mood” the mood as well, starting with its sensual taste and aroma. As you bite into chocolate, your body begins to release “feel good” endorphins, “the love hormone” oxytocin, and key neurotransmitters that increase arousal.
Dark chocolate contains a compound called phenethylamine, which is often called the “love drug,” as it promotes sexual desire and sex drive. Phenethylamine precipitates a release of dopamine, which is associated with reward and pleasure. What’s more, dopamine is among the most extensively studied neurotransmitter involved in the control of sexual behavior and arousal.
In addition, a recent study in the journal Circulation found that the flavonoids in dark chocolate help improve circulation and blood flow. This is worth noting because both men and women alike rely on adequate blood flow for optimal sexual stimulation and performance.
Even more, in a recent study published in the journal Science, a group of researchers led by Professor Jeroen Roes of the University of Leuven in Belgium discovered that intake of dark chocolate was found to heavily influence the gut microbiota by driving the presence of a specific bacterial population.
While there is still a lot to learn about the gut, building and maintaining a healthy gut flora—which involves optimizing the balance of “good” to “bad” bacteria—is critical to digestive system health and function, overall health, immune system function, mental health and wellbeing, metabolism and weight management, respiratory (i.e., lungs) and integumentary (i.e., skin) systems, and more. When the gut flora is at a healthy balance, it provides immense support to digestive function, immune system, metabolism, skin health, mental wellbeing, and more.
With all that said, it’s important to point out that the higher the cocoa content the better. As you move down the “healthy” scale of dark chocolate bars (from highest to lowest cocoa content), you’ll typically find more calories and sugar and less protein and fiber (as well as fewer flavonols).
Thus, you should choose a dark chocolate bar with the highest possible cocoa content, and clearly, 100% cocoa will be your best bet. A good starting point for most people is a dark chocolate that has a 70% cocoa content. When enjoying dark chocolate, a couple of squares should do the trick.