Is dark chocolate good for you? Chocolate has long been associated with breakups, breakdowns, and bad diet behavior—but does the so-called “food of the gods” have some health benefits?
Here’s the thing, not all chocolate deserves a bad rep. Sugar-laden Hershey bars and kisses, well, they deserve a bad rep. But chocolate that contains a high percentage of cocoa content (70 percent or above) has some pretty impressive health benefits: improved heart health, lower blood pressure, reduced cholesterol, antiaging. Keep reading to learn more about what dark chocolate has to offer.
The Benefits of Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is packed with nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants that lend themselves to various health benefits. A 100-gram bar of dark chocolate with 70-85 percent cocoa contains:
- 11 grams of fiber.
- 67 percent of the DV for iron.
- 58% of the DV for magnesium.
- 89% of the DV for copper.
- 98 percent of the DV for manganese.
Plus, plenty of zinc, selenium, phosphorus, and potassium. But, this isn’t us saying to down a whole big bar of dark chocolate for this. Moderation is key.
Dark chocolate also contains oleic acid, a heart-healthy essential fatty acid that can improve brain health.
Rich in Antioxidants
Dark chocolate’s antioxidants are where the real magic happens. Antioxidants help fight oxidative damage that can lead to inflammation, disease, and aging. Dark chocolate is overflowing with antioxidants like polyphenols, catechins, and flavonols that can help fight oxidative stress and damage—keeping your body and mind balanced. In fact, cacao has 40 times more antioxidant levels than blueberries. Yup, it’s that potent. You can harness the antioxidant benefits of chocolate by searching for a cacao powder and adding it to your morning smoothie or favorite gf dessert.
Cacao, the unrefined version of chocolate, is packed with feel-good compound. As we learned, it contains lots of powerful antioxidants. Some of its most prized antioxidants are polyphenols, which are known to reduce anxiety and depression. It’s also packed with flavonoids, which we will learn increases blood flow to the brain and lowers inflammation—all amazing for mood regulation.
Even more, cacao contains Theobromine, a central nervous system stimulant found to have mood-boosting effects. It also contains Phenylethylamine, a chemical responsible for the euphoria you feel when falling in love!
You could call cacao a natural anti-depressant as it works synergistically with dopamine to boost endorphins and anadamide a.k.a the bliss chemical.
May Reduce Heart Disease Risk
Dark chocolate compounds are found to be highly protective against the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. When LDL (bad) cholesterol is oxidized, it means it has reacted with free radicals, making it wreaks even more havoc (1, 2).
Beyond lowering oxidized LDL, cocoa can also reduce insulin resistance, a common risk factor for diabetes and heart disease (3,4).Make sure you opt for a dark chocolate low in sugar, as sugar can have the opposite effect on insulin.
In a study of 470 older men, cocoa was found to lower the risk of heart disease by 50 percent over 15 years. Other research found that eating chocolate twice per week reduced the risk of calcified plaque in the arteries by 32 percent, while eating chocolate less frequently showed no difference. Another study found that eating dark chocolate 5+ times a week lowered the risk of heart disease by 57 percent.
Improve Blood Flow
There’s a reason why chocolate is considered romantic. Its flavanols stimulate the lining of the arteries to produce nitric oxide. One of the many functions of nitric oxide (which discovery led to viagra) is to lower the resistance of blood flow and blood pressure.
Protection from Sun
Beyond improving blood flow to the skin, dark chocolate can also protect the skin against sun damage, all thanks to its high flavanol content. One study of 30 people found that minimal erythemal dose (MED) (the minimum amount of UVB rays required to cause redness to the skin) doubled after consuming dark chocolate for 12 weeks.
And there you have it, the lovely health benefits of the loveliest treat. While dark chocolate has a lot of potential for wellness, it’s important not to go too overboard with it. When out and about purchasing dark chocolate, opt for the highest percentage of cacao. Happy chocolate-ing!