Chocolate is not only sinfully delicious and addictive but also good for your health. Or so they say. There are tons of headlines that tout the supposed benefits of dark chocolate and give hope to chocolate-lovers. “Don’t Feel Guilty About Eating Chocolate – Here’s Why”, “Top 100 Convincing Reasons Why You Should Eat More Chocolate”, “5 Scientific Reasons To Grab A Chocolate Bar Right Now”, etc, etc…
But are there any scientific grounds for these claims?
🍫 Good news: chocolate CAN improve your health.
Bad news: the sugary, milky versions of chocolate are NOT good for you.
Dark chocolate (85% cocoa) is quite nutritious: it contains a solid amount of fiber and minerals (iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, zinc, selenium). BUT you should remember that all these nutrients come with 600 calories (if we’re talking about a 3.5-oz chocolate bar) and sugar. It also contains caffeine but the amount is very small.
Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants (flavanols, catechins, and more) – these substances protect your cells against free radicals, which may play a role in heart diseases and cancer. In an observational study of 500 elderly men, cocoa was found to reduce the risk of heart diseases by 50% over a 15 year period.
The above-mentioned flavanols can stimulate the endothelium to produce nitric oxide. To put it simple, it reduces your blood pressure and improves blood flow.
Dark chocolate can also do wonders on the function of your brain by improving blood flow to your brain. Cocoa beans can improve cognitive function, verbal fluency, and several risk factors for disease in elderly people.
BUT it doesn’t mean that you should consume lots of chocolate every day. It’s loaded with calories and sugar, which are not that good for your body if you overeat. Have a square or two (or three, because it’s not that easy to stop) after dinner (go with quality stuff – 70% or higher cocoa content) or make a hot cocoa with no milk or sugar.