Health Benefits of Dark Chocolates

Scientific studies have shown that dark chocolate — sorry, milk and white chocolate don’t count — is rich in antioxidants and packed with nutrients, making this bittersweet treat a superfood favorite.

Dark chocolate contains phytonutrients called flavonoids, which are plant chemicals that act as antioxidants and may play a role in cancer prevention, heart health, and weight loss noted an article published in December 2016 in the Journal of Nutritional Science. The cacao plant that chocolate is derived from also contains a compound called theobromine, which Toby Amidor, RD, a cookbook author and nutrition expert for the Food Network, says can help reduce inflammation and potentially lower blood pressure.

“Cacao is packed with numerous antioxidants — actually more than green tea (For more information on green tea, please click here. Thank you so much), or red wine,” she says. “The darker you go, the more antioxidants you’ll get, but there needs to be a balance between eating palatable dark chocolate and getting the health benefits.”

Your best bet is choosing a bar with 70 percent cacao or higher, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; bars with lower percentages of cacao have more added sugar and unhealthy fats. Even though quality dark chocolate is a better choice than milk chocolate, it is still chocolate, meaning it’s high in calories and saturated fat.

To avoid weight gain, Amidor recommends eating no more than 1 ounce of dark chocolate per day.

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate (also known as black chocolate, dark black chocolate, plain chocolate, or sour chocolate) is a form of chocolate containing cocoa solids and cocoa butter, without the milk or butter found in milk chocolate. Government and industry standards of what products may be labeled “Dark chocolate” vary by country and market.

10 Proven Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

1. Very Nutritious…

Dark chocolate contains a ton of nutrients, fiber, potassium, calcium, copper, and magnesium, according to a study published in the journal Antioxidants & Redox Signaling.

2. Powerful Source of Antioxidant…

Of course, the darker the chocolate the better, but any 70 percent dark chocolate or higher contains antioxidants.

It also contains a good chunk of calories and fat, so be mindful of your daily intake.

3. May Improve Blood Flow and Lower Blood Pressure…

More good news for chocolate lovers: A new Harvard study finds that eating a small square of dark chocolate daily can help lower blood pressure for people with hypertension.

The study analyzed 24 chocolate studies involving 1,106 people. It found that dark chocolate, the kind that contains at least 50 to 70 percent cocoa, lowered blood pressure in all participants, but most notably in those with hypertension.

4. It Fights Free-Radicals and May Play a Role in Cancer Prevention

Evidence that dark chocolate possesses properties that could help protect people from certain types of cancer is limited but growing. Antioxidants protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals, which are unstable oxygen molecules thought to be responsible for aging and disease, per an article published in January 2015 in the Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry.

Free Radicals

“When you have too many free radicals in your body, they start to attack your cells, and that can lead, over time, to low-grade inflammation and to some diseases — cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s,” Dr. DuBost says.

Some studies, such as one published in the Journal of the American Society of Hypertension, have shown that people who eat many flavonoids or antioxidant-rich chocolate develop fewer cancers than those who don’t consume them. Of the many flavonoids in chocolate, two, in particular, epicatechin and quercetin, are believed to be responsible for the cancer-fighting properties.

5. Dark Chocolate Could Improve Blood Sugar Levels, and Reduce the Risk of Developing Diabetes…

You probably think that this is so controversial but studies have shown healthy amounts of dark chocolate rich in cacao could actually improve how the body metabolizes glucose. Insulin resistance causes high blood glucose (sugar) and is the hallmark of type 2 diabetes, per an article published in March 2019 by StatPearls.

In a study published in October 2017, the Journal of Community and Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives, the flavonoids in dark chocolate was found to reduce oxidative stress, which scientists think is the primary cause of insulin resistance. By improving your body’s sensitivity to insulin, resistance is reduced, and in turn, the risk of diseases like diabetes decreases.

Another study, this one published in January 2017 in the journal Appetite, showed that participants who rarely consumed chocolate had almost twice the risk of developing diabetes five years down the road, compared with participants who indulged in dark chocolate at least once per week.

While researchers agree dark chocolate possesses many health benefits, further study is needed to determine if there is a cause-and-effect relationship between chocolate consumption and diabetes risk.

6. Raises HDL and Protects LDL From Oxidation…

Dark chocolate is also touted as a cholesterol-lowering food. A handful of almonds, dark chocolate, and unsweetened cocoa showed a significant drop in low-density lipoproteins (LDL), also known as “bad” cholesterol, which in high amounts can clog arteries, in a study published in November 2017 in the Journal of the American Heart Association

Joy DuBost, PhD, RD, a nutrition spokesperson and owner of Dubost Food & Nutrition Solutions says the cocoa butter in dark chocolate may also play a part in raising high-density lipoproteins (HDL), or “good” cholesterol.

Cocoa butter contains oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated fat — the same fat you find in heart-healthy olive oil, notes the U.S. Library of Medicine.

However, unlike olive oil, ( For more information on olive oil, please click here), cocoa butter is also high in saturated fat (per the U.S. Department of Agriculture), which in excess can be harmful to the heart, further emphasizing the need for portion control.

Not to mention, many of the studies on chocolate and good cholesterol are short-term, so it’s premature to say that chocolate is a cholesterol cure-all, DuBost adds.

7. Good for Your Gut and May Help with Weight Loss…

Eating chocolate every day probably seems like the last way to lose weight, but research suggests dark chocolate may play a role in controlling appetite, which in turn could help with weight loss.

Neuroscientist Will Clower, PhD, wrote a whole book on the subject called Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight, which describes how eating a bit of dark chocolate before or after meals triggers hormones that signal to the brain you’re full.

Of course, eating more than the recommended amount per day can counteract any potential weight loss. ( For more information on weight loss please click here. Thank you so much).

8. May Reduce Heart Disease and Lower the Risk of Heart Stroke…

One earlier study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition found that people who ate dark chocolate more than five times a week reduced their risk of heart disease by 57 percent.

Researchers hypothesize it’s the flavonoids in dark chocolate that maintain heart health, per a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. These chemicals help produce nitric oxide, which causes blood vessels to relax and blood pressure to lower, noted a review published in March 2017 in the American Journal of Physiology: Cell Physiology.

More study is needed to determine the exact amount and types of flavonoid-rich chocolate that would help lessen stroke risk.

9. May Protect Your Skin From the Sun…

The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health lists vitamins and minerals dark chocolate is packed full of — like copper, iron, and magnesium, to name a few — that are also beneficial to your skin.

Manganese, for example, supports the production of collagen, a protein that helps keep skin looking young and healthy. Other minerals, like calcium, help repair and renew skin, which is pretty important because, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, our bodies can shed up to 40,000 skin cells each day!

Several earlier studies have also found the high levels of antioxidants in dark chocolate may protect skin from the powerful ultraviolet (UV) rays emitted by the sun.

10. Could Improve Brain Function, Prevent Memory Loss and Boost Your Mood…

Studies show consuming high concentrations of dark chocolate may benefit your brain. Joy DuBost, PhD, RD, a nutrition spokesperson and owner of Dubost Food & Nutrition Solutions, says research has shown chocolate stimulates neural activity in areas of the brain associated with pleasure and reward, which in turn decreases stress and improves your mood.

Out of eight studies on chocolate and mood, five showed improvements in mood, and three showed “clear evidence of cognitive enhancement,” according to a systematic review published in the journal Nutrition Reviews.

70% Cacao

Further research presented at the 2018 Experimental Biology meeting found that eating 48 grams (g) of organic chocolate with 70 percent cacao increased neuroplasticity in the brain, which could have positive effects on memory, cognition, and mood.

Improvements in brain health may be due to the high levels of flavonoids in dark chocolate, which research, like a study published in April 2018 in The FASEB Journal, has found to have accumulated in regions of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

Further research is needed to investigate the mechanisms involved.

8 of the Healthiest Chocolate Brands on the Market

Alter Eco Dark Chocolate Bars. Alter Eco | Classic Blackout | 85% Pure Dark Cocoa, Fair Trade, Organic, Non-GMO, Gluten Free Dark Chocolate Bar, 12 Bars,

Hu Vegan Chocolate Bars.

Lake Champlain Chocolates. – 12 Pack Bar, Dark Chocolate with Toffee & Almonds, 3 Ounce

Lindt Excellence.Bar, 90% Cocoa Supreme Dark Chocolate, Gluten Free, Great for Holiday Gifting, 3.5 Ounce (Pack of 12)

Lily’s Chocolate.- Intensely Dark Chocolate Bar by Lily’s | Stevia Sweetened, No Added Sugar, Low-Carb, Keto Friendly | 92% Cocoa | Fair Trade, Gluten-Free & Non-GMO | 3 ounces, 4-Pack

German Dark Chocolate Bundle of 4 Varieties. Moser Roth 85% Cocoa, 70% Cocoa, Dark Sea Salt and Dark Mint. Low Sugar Gourmet Candy Bars. Good for the Waist Line and Chocolate Lovers. From Germany

Ghirardelli Bars Intense Dark Chocolate Squares Bag, 86% Cacao Midnight Reverie, 24.72 Oz, (Pack of 6)

Vosges Haut-Chocolate – Matcha Green Tea & Spirulina Super-Dark Chocolate Bar, 3 oz

What kind of dark chocolate is good for you?

Here’s news that’s hard not to like. Eating a small, 1.6-ounce bar of dark chocolate every day is good for you.

As noted, chocolates with a cocoa percentage of 70 or higher are the healthiest types. Bittersweet chocolate‘s percentage ranges from 65 to 80 percent, making it a very viable healthy dark chocolate option.

Even though quality dark chocolate is a better choice than milk chocolate, it is still chocolate, meaning it’s high in calories and saturated fat. To avoid weight gain, Amidor recommends eating no more than 1 ounce of dark chocolate per day

It also contains stimulants like caffeine and theobromine but is unlikely to keep you awake at night as the amount of caffeine is very small compared to coffee. Summary Quality dark chocolate is rich in fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, and a few other minerals.

Conclusion:

Your best bet is choosing a bar with 70 percent cacao or higher, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; bars with lower percentages of cacao have more added sugar and unhealthy fats. Even though quality dark chocolate is a better choice than milk chocolate, it is still chocolate, meaning it’s high in calories and saturated fat.

To avoid weight gain, it is best to eat no more than 1 ounce of dark chocolate per day as it also contains a good chunk of calories and fat, so be mindful of your daily intake.

Each brand of chocolate is also processed differently; going organic is always best because it’s grown without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides (look for Rainforest Alliance Certified products), and recommends always checking the ingredient list to make sure you’re consuming chocolate with fewer and more natural ingredients.

Please let us know in the comments below:

  • What is your favorite dark chocolate?
  • What benefits did it do to you?
  • Which one are you going to recommend to others?

Affiliate Disclosure: I am grateful to be of service and bring you resources. In order to do this, please note that whenever you click the links in my posts and purchase items, in most (not all) cases I will receive a referral commission.

REFERENCES:

https://amzn.to/3szEh35

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_chocolate

https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-and-nutrition-pictures/delicious-reasons-to-eat-dark-chocolate.aspx

Leave a Comment