Most of us enjoy indulging in a delicious piece of chocolate—some of us even crave it. But, diet plans and the sugary content in most chocolate bars dictate that this should be a once-in-awhile treat, and not a daily habit. Or should it be? Science says that if you consume quality dark chocolate with a high cacao content, then it can actually be quite nutritious! Studies show us that the higher the concentration of cacao, the more positive the impact on cognition, memory, mood, immunity, and other beneficial effects. According to a 2012 review, there have been at least 42 short-term clinical studies that found positive effects of cacao intake! So, go ahead and indulge (in moderation)!
A good rule of them for choosing the quality stuff—pick the dark chocolate with 70% or higher cacao content.
Here are some of the Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate:
- It’s an Antioxidant
Dark chocolate is loaded with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants. These compounds include polyphenols, flavanols and catechins, among others. One study showed that cocoa and dark chocolate had more antioxidant activity, polyphenols and flavanols than any other fruits tested, including acai berries and blueberries.
- It can reduce the risk of heart disease
Studies show that dark chocolate can lower the risk of heart disease.Observational studies show a drastic reduction in heart disease risk among those who consume the most dark chocolate, by almost 50% in some cases! After Harvard University School of Public Health reviewed over 136 scientific publications on dark chocolate’s effects on heart disease, they concluded that chocolate can reduce the risk of the disease by lowering blood pressure and decreasing LDL oxidation.
- It can improve brain function
One study of healthy volunteers showed that eating high-flavanol cocoa for five days improved blood flow to the brain. Additionally, cocoa contains stimulant substances like caffeine and theobromine, another key reason why consuming dark chocolate can improve brain function.
- It’s loaded with Fibers & Fatty Acids
Dark Chocolate contains a decent amount of soluble fiber and is loaded with minerals like iron, magnesium, and zinc. These healthy attributes are also accompanied by an excellent fatty acid profile. The fats in dark chocolate are mostly saturated and monounsaturated, with trace amounts of polyunsaturated fat.
- It can lower blood pressure
One study investigated the effects of chocolate consumption in 60 people with high blood pressure. The researchers found that participants who ate 25 grams of dark chocolate daily for 8 weeks had significantly lower blood pressure than those who ate the same quantity of white chocolate (which, in fact, contains NO cocoa). Systolic blood pressure (the first number in a blood pressure reading), measured daily, was also lower in the group eating dark chocolate.
- It may be used an as anti-inflammatory
Dark chocolate contains compounds with anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce inflammation in the body. Research from several studies indicated that eating dark chocolate (with at least 70% cacao) offered health benefits like decreased inflammation, due to its high levels of flavonoids, or extremely potent anti-inflammatory agents.
- It can improve your mood
One study conducted by the University of Swinburne in Australia targeted the cocoa polyphenols in dark chocolate. The conclusion? Participants who consumed dark chocolate daily were found to be calmer and happier.
- It can help you with your workout
Studies show that the flavanol, epicatechin, in chocolate can help improve your endurance and workout! Researchers say that to get the best results from your workout, you should consume about ½ of one square of chocolate a day. Of course, as the saying goes, you can have too much of a good thing, so consuming too much can undo the beneficial effects!
- It may help you reduce your food cravings
One of the healthiest snacks you can consume is a piece of dark chocolate because it fills you up quicker and reduces craving for salty and sweet snacks, according to a small research study.
- It may help reduce fatigue
A small study conducted on a group of adults suffering with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome concluded that participants reported feeling less fatigued at the end of the 8-week trial. Researchers believe that the chocolate enhances the action of neurotransmitters, like serotonin, which help regulate mood and sleep.
So, next time you’re craving chocolate, grab a dark chocolate bar for a bit of guilt free satisfaction. In fact, you can even add a serving of dark chocolate to your daily meal planning and it won’t constitute as cheating. Enjoy!