Have you had someone scrutinise your reasoning that a square or two of dark chocolate is good for your health? Or maybe you’re looking to justify your die-hard love for dark chocolate that just won’t quit?
Well with all necessary caveats for moderation aside, we’re here to give you the great news that an occasional dark chocolate habit really does have health benefits.
1. Dark chocolate is very nutritious.
If you buy quality dark chocolate with a high cocoa content, then it is actually quite nutritious. Even better if it is made of cacao not cocoa.
A 100 gram bar 70-85% dark chocolate contains:
- 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 plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.
Of course, 100 grams (or 3.5 ounces) is a fairly large amount and not something you should be consuming daily. All these nutrients also come with 600 calories and moderate amounts of sugar. For this reason, dark chocolate is best consumed in moderation.
However the fatty acid profile of cacao and dark chocolate is excellent. The fats are mostly saturated and monounsaturated, with small amounts of polyunsaturates.
It also contains stimulants like caffeine and theobromine, but is unlikely to keep you awake at night as the amount of caffeine is very small compared to coffee.
2. Dark chocolate is a powerful source of antioxidants.
Dark chocolate is loaded with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants. These include polyphenols, flavanols, catechins, among others.
One study showed that dark chocolate contains more antioxidant activity, polyphenols and flavanols than other fruits they tested, which included blueberries and Acai berries.
3. Dark chocolate may improve blood flow and lower blood pressure.
The bioactive compounds in cacao and cocoa can improve blood flow in the arteries and cause a small but statistically significant decrease in blood pressure.
4. Dark chocolate improves good cholesterol levels and guards against oxidation.
Dark chocolate also improves several important risk factors for disease – it lowers oxidative damage and improves insulin sensitivity.
5. Dark chocolate may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Observational studies show a drastic reduction in heart disease risk for the people who consume the most quality dark chocolate.
6. Dark chocolate may protect your skin against the sun.
Studies show that the flavanols from cacao and cocoa beans can improve blood flow to the skin and protect it against sun-induced damage.
7. Dark chocolate may improve brain function.
One study of healthy volunteers showed that 5 days of consuming high-flavanol cocoa improved blood flow to the brain.
It may also significantly improve cognitive function in elderly people with mental impairment, and improves verbal fluency and several risk factors for disease
So do we eat it every day?
Dark chocolate should be considered a lush, rich treat: it’s easy to overeat and because it does contain some sugar, it’s not something you should binge on. See more about our stance on this here.
Also be aware that a lot of the chocolate on the market is crap. You need to choose quality stuff… organic, dark chocolate, 70% or more.
Oh and if you’re a chocolate lover this is your time to shine!
We’ve just released our new Chocolate Cookbook Volume II and we have a special edition range of Easter chocolates, in collaboration with Coco Chocolate. Made with 96% cacao, the Very Berry Easter Egg-y and Hot Cross Bun-A-Rama Bar are available now!
Do you have a soft spot for chocolate? What’s your favourite way to eat it on special occasions? Tell us below: