Feeling guilty about eating chocolates? You don’t have to anymore. Studies show that dark chocolates deliver key nutrients and antioxidants that promote good health.
Its health perks are so promising that it’s listed among the top ten healthiest foods on the planet.
But how exactly can it be good for you, and how can you maximize the powerful dark chocolate benefits in your regular diet?
Discover why dark chocolates are more than just a delicious treat, and learn about its impressive health rewards that range from weight loss to reduced risk of chronic diseases.
What is Dark Chocolate?
Dark chocolate, otherwise called black chocolate, is a kind of chocolate that is made from cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar. It doesn’t contain milk additives, which is why they have a bitter aftertaste.
The impressive health benefits of dark chocolates are attributed to its cocoa content. Cacao is abundant with flavonoids that have been linked to a heap of health rewards including reduced risk of asthma, heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
Dark Chocolate: Nutrition Facts
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) data shows that dark chocolates are chock-full of key nutrients that offer a slew of health benefits.
According to the USDA Nutrient Database, 100-gram of dark chocolate with 70 to 85 percent cacao contains:
Protein (7.79 grams)
Fiber (10.9 grams)
Potassium (715 milligrams)
Phosphorus (308 milligrams)
Magnesium (228 milligrams)
Its fatty acid profile is also impressive, boasting:
Saturated fats (24.4 grams)
Monounsaturated fats (12.7 grams)
Polyunsaturated fats (1.2 grams)
Apart from these essential nutrients, dark chocolates also contain good amounts of calcium, sodium, iron, vitamins A and K, and small amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin.
A hundred-gram of dark chocolate also packs 80 milligrams of stimulant caffeine.
What are the Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate?
You’re probably feeling guilty to eat that dark chocolate sitting pretty on your fridge. But there’s a good reason to grab it! Take a look at these promising dark chocolate health benefits:
It reduces the risk of heart disease
Eating chocolate can be good for your heart. A scientific review suggests that higher chocolate intake is linked to lower risk of heart problems. This beneficial effect is attributed to the flavonoids contained in dark chocolate bars.
A separate study showed that those who consumed dark chocolate more than five times a week had reduced risk of heart disease.
Another research concluded that cocoa powder may reduce LDL or bad cholesterol, lower oxidized LDL, and increase HDL or good cholesterol levels.
It boosts cognitive function
Dark chocolate also exhibits a positive effect on brain function.
One study found that flavonol-rich cocoa can improve the cerebral blood flow to the brain, suggesting that cocoa may help treat dementia.
Cocoa was also found to be beneficial in improving the brain function of elderly people with mental impairment.
Additionally, the cocoa flavonoids contained in chocolate were also found to reduce stress, enhance mood, and lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
It reduces cancer risk
The anti-cancer effects of cocoa are also attributed to its flavonol content. However, the report recommends cocoa powder over dark chocolate as the latter contains more calories, fat, and sugar.
But dark chocolates consumed in moderate amounts are still considered favorable for your health.
The American Cancer Society also said that flavonol-rich cocoa beans may help lessen damage to cells, which can lead to cancer.
Animal studies also showed that dark chocolate reduced cancer cell proliferation and some gene expression involving inflammation.
Dark chocolate intake was also found to improve DNA resistance to oxidative damage.
Other studies show that daily consumption of flavonols from cocoa or chocolate, along with dietary flavonoids from a regular diet may be a natural approach to prevent colon cancer.
Apart from flavonols, dark cocoa also boasts other beneficial polyphenolic compounds such as catechins and procyanidins that combat chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, which are risk factors for cancer.
It promotes gut health
Dark chocolate may also be good for your gut. In one study, it was discovered that those who consumed cocoa-rich drink over a four-week period significantly had higher levels of good bacteria in their gut.
Another research concluded that cocoa mimics the same effect of prebiotics and probiotics on the intestine, promoting gut health.
Researchers also found that good microbes in the stomach such as Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria gobble dark chocolate. These good bacteria ferment it into anti-inflammatory compounds.
It may improve vision
Researchers hypothesize that cocoa may boost eye health by improving the availability of oxygen and nutrients to the eyes’ blood vessels.
In another study, it was found that dark chocolate bars showed a better ability to enhance visual acuity compared with milk chocolate.
It protects skin against damage
Studies also reveal that dark chocolate may help prevent skin damage caused by harmful UV rays. In one study, it was found that the flavonols in dark chocolate improve dermal blood circulation, and offer photoprotection.
A separate study concluded that regular intake of flavonol-rich dark chocolate can be effective in protecting the skin against harmful UV effects.
If you have a scheduled trip to the beach, consider loading up on dark chocolates a few months or weeks prior.
It may aid in weight loss
Eating dark chocolates is probably the yummiest way to lose weight. Some evidence also shows that dark chocolate may assist in weight loss by decreasing the expression of genes involved in the synthesis of fatty acids.
As a result, it reduces the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates and fats, and increases satiety, preventing unnecessary caloric intake.
A separate study discovered that dark chocolate consumption also reduced stomach circumference.
It may prevent diabetes
The flavonoid content of dark chocolates may also help reduce diabetes risk. Studies show that these beneficial compounds can positively influence insulin resistance, preventing diabetes.
Some reports, however, show that cocoa raises blood sugar in some people with diabetes. But strong research is needed to validate such claims.
How Can You Add Dark Chocolate to Your Diet?
Another great thing about dark chocolates is that they’re so easy to add to your diet. If you want to reap its wonderful health benefits, you can try any of these dark chocolate recipe ideas:
Add it to your morning smoothie
Make your morning smoothie even richer by throwing some dark chocolate chunks into the mix. Your regular fruit smoothie will surely get an extra flavor and nutritional punch.
Sprinkle it over your favorite breakfast fix
Add more texture to your breakfast oatmeal or yogurt by sprinkling it with cacao nibs.
Make a spread
Melt dark chocolate and add it to your breakfast nut spread. You’ll get a richer spread for your sandwich.
Use it as a dip or drizzle over your healthy snacks
Melted dark chocolates? Yes, please! It’s the perfect complement for fruits like strawberries. You can also make a yummy treat by drizzling melted dark chocolate your homemade popcorn.
Add it to your baked goods
Replace your regular chocolate chips with dark chocolate ones to complement the sweetness of your cookie. You can also add it to other baked goods such as muffins, cookies, bread, and other pastries.
Add it to your dessert
You can make tons of yummy desserts using dark chocolates. Try this Hazelnut Nutella Mousse recipe for your next dessert.
Incorporate it into savory dishes
Inject the earthy flavor of cocoa powder to your roasted dishes by adding it to your homemade dry rub. Your roasted meat will absolutely taste more fantastic.
What are the Potential Risks of Consuming Dark Chocolate?
While dark chocolates are considered healthier compared with other types of chocolate, be careful not to over-indulge. As in all things, excessive intake may lead to adverse effects or health problems.
Caffeine-related health problems
Several studies found a link between caffeine and anxiety. According to research, caffeine contributes to anxiety by increasing stress hormones and inhibiting GABA.
Too much caffeine may also aggravate certain conditions like diarrhea, high blood pressure, glaucoma, osteoporosis, irritable bowel syndrome, and heart problems.
Other caffeine-related side effects such as sleeplessness, fast heartbeat, nervousness, and increased urination may also be experienced from eating too much dark chocolate.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Dark chocolates are considered safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, provided they consume it in moderate amounts.
According to some evidence, high doses of caffeine may cause miscarriage, premature delivery or low birth weight.
Interactions with Medications
Dark chocolates may also interact with certain medications like anticoagulant, and antiplatelet drugs and other medications that slow blood clotting, and increase bleeding time.
Cocoa may also interact with other drugs such as adenosine, clozapine, dipyridamole, ergotamine, and medications for asthma, depression, and diabetes.
To be safe, see your doctor first before adding dark chocolates to your diet, especially if you have a health condition or are taking certain drugs.
To say that dark chocolates are loved by many is an understatement. It’s not only delicious, but it’s super healthy, too. Even better, you can add it to a wide array of yummy recipes.
Just remember to consume it moderately to maximize its health perks. Experts say you should limit your dark chocolate intake to two squares a day.