Chocolate has been portrayed as a lot of things: sexy, indulgent, joyful, special, luscious, gluttonous, and even opportunistic (hello, golden ticket) – but what about healthy? That’s right! Chocolate, specifically dark chocolate, comes with a variety of health benefits for the mind, body, and soul. Cacao beans are packed full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber. Cacao beans are actually seeds from the Theobroma cacao tree, which literally translates to “the food of the Gods” in Greek. Raw cacao, often in powder form, is chalky and bitter, which is why it’s often processed with sugar, butter, and additional flavors to appease the masses. Unfortunately, this means that your favorite milk chocolate bar has little to no health properties left.
To benefit the most from chocolate’s healthy compounds, a good rule of thumb is “the darker the better.” For instance, a 100 gram bar of dark chocolate with 70% to 85% cocoa contains high percentages of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamins and minerals, including:
- 11 grams of fiber
- 67% of the RDA for Iron
- 58% of the RDA for Magnesium
- 89% of the RDA for Copper
- 98% of the RDA for Manganese
- It also has potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium
In addition to the health properties of chocolate, there have been numerous research studies related to the many health benefits of chocolate consumption. Here are 6 ways chocolate is beneficial to your health:
Improves Mood Chocolate may not only bring your taste buds joy, but can also make you happier as well. Cocoa polyphenols have been found to improve contentedness and mood in a research study involving 72 healthy men and women. And, because many find eating chocolate so pleasurable, endorphins are also often released in the brain. It’s a double-dose of the “feel goods.”
Increases Satiety Chocolate can help suppress food cravings and overeating. A 2011 study by the University of Copenhagen found that individuals who consumed dark chocolate, versus milk chocolate, felt more satiated, had fewer food cravings, and tended to eat less. Researchers concluded that dark chocolate promotes satiety, lowers the desire to eat something sweet, and suppresses energy intake. Eating dessert first may be acceptable after all!
Heart Health Eating chocolate has several heart health benefits. According to a study conducted in England that followed 21,000 participants over 11 years, those who consumed chocolate developed 12% fewer cases of cardiovascular disease than their non-chocolate-eating counterparts. They were also 23% less likely to suffer from a stroke. This could potentially be attributed to the flavonoids found in the cacao bean. Flavonoids are a type of antioxidant found in plants. Flavonoids in cocoa have been shown to help lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain and heart, prevent blood clots, and fight cell damage. So, go ahead and indulge – your heart will thank you.
Reduces Stress Daily consumption of chocolate has been proven to reduce stress. Researchers found that eating a small amount of dark chocolate each day reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as the “fight-or-flight” hormones known as catecholamines, in highly stressed people. Stress can wreak havoc on the body and cause a plethora of additional problems. Fight back and combat stress with this tasty secret weapon.
Improves Memory Chocolate has been shown to increase cognitive function in older adults. According to a research study, eating chocolate may help improve memory by as much as 25%. One surprising outcome of this study was the improvement of memory recall, such as remembering where a car is parked after shopping. Although more studies are being conducted, recent results indicated a positive correlation in chocolate consumption and memory improvement. Can’t remember where you put your keys? Eating more chocolate may help you remember.
Increases Lifespan Although it’s not quite the Fountain of Youth, chocolate may actually help you live longer. In 1999, a Harvard University team studied 8,000 men and found that those who ate modest amounts of chocolate up to three times a month lived almost a year longer than those who ate none. If that’s not a good enough reason to eat more chocolate, I don’t know what is.
Numerous studies continue to be conducted on the health benefits of chocolate, but past studies’ results indicate a strong correlation between improved health and cacao consumption – which means a daily dose of dark chocolate may be what keeps the doctor away – step aside, apples!…JK. Incorporating (more) chocolate into your life, may actually, however, provide physical and psychological benefits (twist my arm).