When it comes to health, there is a right kind of chocolate, and a wrong kind of chocolate. Dark chocolate is the way to go, but be forewarned: not all dark chocolate is created equal. However, dark chocolate (that isn’t loaded up on extra sugar) as well as cacao nibs can be great for your health. Dark chocolate health benefits include, for example, protection from disease, improved heart health, and better cognitive function. But there is even more that dark chocolate can do for your health. Learn more by reading the list below.
Hare are 7 dark chocolate health benefits:
1. Protection from Disease-Causing Free Radicals
Who knew that you could fight disease by eating chocolate? Dark chocolate contains antioxidants, which can neutralize free radicals within your body. The inclusion of these antioxidants means dark chocolate health benefits include the ability to fight off certain diseases caused by these free radicals.
Dark chocolate in particular contains two antioxidants called flavonoids and polyphenols. And the amount of these antioxidants in dark chocolate is even greater than it is in wine and tea.
But how do you know what kind of dark chocolate to buy? Here’s the rule of thumb: the higher the cocoa percentage of your chocolate bar, the more antioxidants you’ll consume.
2. Potential Cancer Prevention
Dark chocolate health benefits extend to cancer-prevention, as well. This is again due to the flavonoids present in dark chocolate. While evidence is limited, it suggests that flavonoids in dark chocolate may help fight against cancer-causing free radicals, but that’s only part of it. Researchers suggest that the pleasure one gains from eating chocolate may play a part in fighting cancer, too!
3. Improved Heart Health
Heart vitality is another area in which dark chocolate health benefits apply. Flavanols are the main kind of flavonoid within dark chocolate. They have a positive effect on heart health because they can help lower blood pressure. Furthermore, flavanols can improve blood flow to the heart as well as to the brain. And dark chocolate flavanols can help make blood platelets less sticky and more able to clot. This lessens the likelihood of blood clots and stroke. (1)
In fact, researchers took a look at dark chocolate health benefits regarding heart circulation in health adults. In the study, they compared flavonoid-rich dark chocolate to non-flavonoid white chocolate for two weeks. What they found was that the adults who ate the dark chocolate saw a significant improvement in heart circulation. However, those who are the white chocolate saw no positive health effects at all. (2)
And another study from 2015 followed the health of over 20,000 people for 11 years. The study found that dark chocolate intake is associated with the lowering of cardiovascular events. (3) However, this doesn’t mean you should go wild and eat as much chocolate as you can. It’s to be consumed and enjoyed in moderation. But moderate consumption can help improve the health of your heart!
4. Good for Overall Cholesterol Profile
Moving on, dark chocolate health benefits include improving your cholesterol levels. This is due to the cocoa butter within dark chocolate. It contains oleic acid, which is a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil. Cacao butter also contains stearic and palmitic acids. While palmitic acid can increase bad cholesterol, there is too small amount of it to make a difference. And stearic acid won’t raise or lower cholesterol.
And Southern Medical Journal published a study regarding dark chocolate health benefits. They found that just one week of dark chocolate intake improved lipid profiles and decreased platelet reactivity both in men as well as women. For women, the dark chocolate also reduced inflammation. (4)
5. Better Cognitive Function
Dark chocolate health benefits extend to your brain, too! In fact, it may be beneficial in treating dementia and stroke. Furthermore, a 2009 study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed how dark chocolate can improve cognitive ability in the elderly. The study involved more than 2,000 particpants, ages 70 to 74 years old. It examined the effects of flavonoid-rich food (including dark chocolate, wine and tea) on cognitive function.
Researchers concluded that consuming these foods is associated with an improvement in several cognitive abilities. They also suggested that these types of foods should be examined further for their role in brain health. (5)
6. Blood Pressure and Blood Sugar Aid
As of this writing, there are at least 75 scientific articles looking at dark chocolate health benefits. Wow! It seems like when it comes to health, dark chocolate deserves a spotlight.
One study found that dark chocolate can lower blood pressure of hypertensive diabetics as well as can decrease fasting blood sugar. (6)
However, you’ll want to watch the sugar content. Bottom line, the lower the sugar content, the better. It’s also important to note that this study was based on a small amount of dark chocolate per day—0.88 ounces. Don’t overdo it, but know that dark chocolate does have its irrefutable benefits.
7. Antioxidant-Rich Superfood
Hershey Co. conducted a study, which was published in Chemistry Central Journal. The study compared flavanol and polyphenol content in dark chocolate to that in acai berries, cranberries, blueberries, and pomegranates.
The study showed that the flavanol in cocoa powder was notably greater than it was in the fruit powder. Furthermore, the antioxidant activity was higher than it was in all of the fruit juices except for pomegranate. And the total polyphenol content was also higher for dark chocolate than it was for the fruits, with the exception again being pomegranate. (7)
Bottom line? Dark chocolate, in its proper form, has a higher concentration of certain antioxidants than some fruits. Perhaps it would be prudent to combine dark chocolate with its number one contender from this study, the pomegranate! Yum!
For example, you should try this decadent pomegranate and dark chocolate cream cake! Delicious!