The Health Benefits of Dark Chcolate
In a word: Yes. Multiple studies show that dark chocolate can have a positive impact on your health in a number of important ways.
Cocoa is the ingredient we are really talking about when we talk about the positive health impacts of chocolate. In order to get the health benefits without a lot of downside, you need to be consuming high quality dark chocolate that is at least 70% cocoa.
Source of Minerals
Dark chocolate is high in fiber and a good source of various minerals, such as iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese. It also contains potassium, zinc, phosphorus and selenium. Most of the fats in chocolate are healthy saturated and monounsaturated fats. It is low in unhealthy polyunsaturated fats.
Dark chocolate is a good source of antioxidants, including polyphenols, flavanols, and catechins. One study showed that it has more antioxidant activity than so called “super foods” like blueberries and Acai berries.
Antioxidants help the body resist cellular damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are a side effect of normal processes, like breathing. They can also be introduced by environmental factors, like smoke. If you have enough antioxidants, your body is empowered to combat free radicals and prevent damage.
Blood Flow and Blood Pressure
Chocolate and cocoa are particularly high in flavanols. Studies show that in addition to acting as antioxidants, flavanols also lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the heart and brain and reduce clotting.
Studies show that dark chocolate can improve blood flow and lower blood pressure. It does this in part by signalling the blood vessels to relax. It is a good source of “good cholesterol,” so it helps reduce bad cholesterol and the incidence of cardiovascular plaques that can cause blockages and heart disease.
Other studies have suggested that it reduces insulin resistance, a risk factor for diabetes and heart disease. Long term observational studies indicate it has a significant positive impact on cardiovascular health and heart health.
Dark chocolate has been shown to improve blood flow to the brain. It is thought to improve mental functioning in elderly people. It also helps protect the skin from sun damage. Additionally, gut microbes are shown to ferment chocolate. It is shown to help reduce gut inflammation.
How Much is Healthy
Although there are no recommendations for dosage,some studies suggest that you need to eat chocolate 2 or more times per week to see a significant positive health effect. Dramatic effects are associated with eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate 5 or more times per week. You can have a small square of good quality dark chocolate — about one ounce — two to five times per week without guilt.
Not all chocolate is created equal. For best results, choose organic chocolate that is at least 70% cocoa and has not been Dutched (treated with alkali). Avoid sugary products, like milk chocolate.
Source: Why Is Dark Chocolate Good for You? Thank Your Microbes
Source: 7 Proven Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate (No. 5 is Best)
Source: Heart Health Benefits of Chocolate