Dark chocolate is loaded with nutrients that can positively affect your health.
Made from the seed of the cacao tree, it’s one of the best sources of antioxidants you can find.
Studies show that dark chocolate can improve your health and lower the risk of heart disease
Dark chocolate contains several compounds that possess antioxidant properties, such as flavanols and polyphenols. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals and prevent oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress refers to the damage that excessive amounts of free radicals can inflict on cells and tissues in the body.
Oxidative stress contributes to the natural aging process. Over time, the effects of oxidative stress may also contribute to the development of a variety of diseases, such asTrusted Source:
- Heart disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Eye disease
Heart disease risk
Regularly eating dark chocolate may help reduce a person’s likelihood of developing heart disease. Some of the compounds in dark chocolate, specifically flavanols, affect two major risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
We discuss the potential benefits of dark chocolate for these two risk factors and others below:
The flavanols in dark chocolate stimulate nitric oxide production in the body. Nitric oxide causes blood vessels to dilate, or widen, which improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure.
A study investigated the effects of chocolate consumption in 60 people with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. The researchers found that participants who ate 25 grams (g) of dark chocolate daily for 8 weeks had significantly lower blood pressure than those who ate the same quantity of white chocolate.
Another study showed that the beneficial effects of dark chocolate on blood pressure might be more significant in older people and those with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, as opposed to younger, healthy individuals.
Dark chocolate also contains certain compounds, such as polyphenols and theobromine, that may lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the body and increase levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Doctors often refer to LDL cholesterol as “bad cholesterol” and HDL cholesterol as “good cholesterol.”
A 2017 study reported that eating dark chocolate for 15 days raised HDL cholesterol levels in people living with HIV. However, dark chocolate consumption did not affect LDL cholesterol levels in the study participants.
Inflammation is part of the body’s natural immune response to germs and other harmful substances. However, chronic inflammation can damage cells and tissues and may increase the risk of some health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and certain types of cancer.
Dark chocolate contains compounds with anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce inflammation in the body.
A small pilot study from 2018 involving five healthy people examined the effects of dark chocolate on the immune system. The results suggested that consuming large amounts of 70-percent dark chocolate affects the activity of genes that regulate the immune response. However, it remains unclear how this study will be of practical significance.
In another study from 2018, researchers found that eating 30 g of 84-percent dark chocolate each day for 8 weeks significantly reduced inflammatory biomarkers in people with type 2 diabetes. The authors of the study concluded that there is a need for additional studies to evaluate the optimal amounts of dark chocolate to use to treat those with diabetes.
Insulin resistance occurs when the body’s cells stop responding to the hormone insulin. Insulin resistance can cause abnormally high levels of blood glucose, which can lead to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
A 6-month study from 2018 examined the relationship between regular dark chocolate consumption and blood glucose levels among Hispanic individuals. The research findings suggest that eating 48 g of 70-percent dark chocolate each day may help lower fasting glucose levels and reduce insulin resistance.
Eating dark chocolate may improve brain function and help prevent neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
The findings of a small 2018 studyTrusted Source suggest that the flavanols present in dark chocolate may enhance neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself, particularly in response to injury and disease.
A study from 2016 identified a positive association between regular chocolate consumption and cognitive performance. However, the researchers collected data from surveys and had to rely on self-reported chocolate intake, so they were unable to draw any definitive conclusions from the findings.
According to the United States Department of AgricultureTrusted Source, a 101-g bar of dark chocolate with 70–85 percent cocoa solids provides:
- 604 calories
- 7.87 g of protein
- 43.06 g of fat
- 46.36 g of carbohydrates
- 11.00 g of dietary fiber
- 24.23 g of sugar
- 12.02 milligrams (mg) of iron
- 230.00 mg of magnesium
- 3.34 mg of zinc
The bottom line
There is considerable evidence that cocoa can provide powerful health benefits, being especially protective against heart disease.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should go all out and consume lots of chocolate every day. It’s still loaded with calories and easy to overeat.
Maybe have a square or two after dinner and try to savor them. If you want the benefits of cocoa without the calories in chocolate, consider making a hot cocoa without any cream or sugar.
Also, note that a lot of the chocolate on the market is not nutritious.
Choose quality stuff: dark chocolate with 70% or higher cocoa content. You might want to check out on how to find the best dark chocolate.
Dark chocolates typically contain some sugar, but the amounts are usually small and the darker the chocolate, the less sugar it will contain.
Chocolate is one of the few foods that taste awesome while providing significant health benefits.