Chocolate has taken a lot of heat for being an unhealthy snack, but is it actually that bad for you? If we are talking about very popular candy bars like Reese’s or Kit Kats, then yes, chocolate is not healthful. But chocolate closer to its natural form, without the added harmful ingredients, actually is pact full of health benefits. Typically, the health benefits of chocolate are most notable with dark chocolate. Why? Higher cocoa content.
As mentioned, what really separates a diabetes-inducing chocolate snack from a healthful handful of chocolatey goodness is the cocoa content. The higher the cocoa content, the healthier the chocolate. Chocolate with a cocoa content of at least 70% is what any chocolate lover should aim for.
Let’s take a look at the nutritional value of chocolate for a deeper look at what the candy has to offer.
Nutritional Content of Chocolate:
As with any food or beverage, we can discover many health benefits simply by looking at the vitamin, mineral, and overall nutritional content. Here are some prominent vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients found in dark chocolate that deserve some spotlight. Each figure is based on a 100 gram serving (about 1 candy bar) of dark chocolate with 70-85% cacao solids.
- Manganese – 1.9 milligrams. 97% RDA (recommended daily value).
- Copper – 1.8 milligrams. 88% RDA.
- Iron – 11.9 milligrams. 66% RDA.
- Magnesium – 228 milligrams. 57% RDA.
- Phosphorus – 308 milligrams. 31% RDA.
- Selenium – 6.8 micrograms. 10% RDA.
- Vitamin K – 7.3 micrograms. 9% RDA.
- Total Omega-6 Fatty Acids – 1218 milligrams.
- Total Omega-3 Fatty Acids – 34 milligrams.
- Theobromine – 802 milligrams.
- Caffeine – 80 milligrams.
In addition to the above nutrients, it is said that over 300 different constituent compounds have been identified in chocolate. Some other compounds in chocolate are: flavonols, flavanols, flavonoids, resveratrol, serotonin, cannabinoids, anansamide, and tryptophan.
Check out the USDA Nutrient Database for a complete nutritional profile of dark chocolate 70-85% cacao.
10 Health Benefits of Chocolate – Dark Chocolate
One would never think chocolate can be so healthful while living in our current culture. But the truth is, if the chocolate contains a high cocoa content and is not tampered with by having harmful ingredients added to it, it can be a completely guilt-free snack. Here are some astounding health benefits of chocolate.
- Boosting Heart Health, Preventing Stroke – Swedish scientists found that women who had the highest consumption of chocolate (about two bars a week) had a 20% lower risk of stroke. Researchers in Italy found that people who eat the ideal amount of 6.7 grams of dark chocolate per day have lower levels of C-reactive protein in the blood. A marker for inflammation in the blood, C-reactive protein can indicate someone is at a higher risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Preventing and Treating Cough – Thanks to a compound in chocolate called theobromine, chocolate is able to treat acute and chronic cough. In one study, 300 participants was given 1,000 milligrams of theobromine (derived from cocoa) twice daily for two weeks. 60% of the participants experienced some relief.
- Protecting Against Cancer – Several studies found a connection between chocolate and cancer prevention. One study found that pentameric procyanidin in chocolate can stop production of new tumor cells, another study found that rats fed a diet rich in cocoa had significantly reduced number of markers for colon cancer, and yet another study found that proanthocyanidin in chocolate was able to reduce the proteins in breast cancer cells that would promote tumor growth.
- Look Younger, Slow Aging – A 2006 study in The Journal of Nutrition shows that dark chocolate can increase blood flow to the cutaneous and subcutaneous tissues, and even increase skin density and hydration. Individuals consuming the chocolate also noticed greater protection from UV rays and decreased roughness. The world’s longest living woman who lived to age 122 was thought to have lived for so long due to consumption of olive oil, wine, and dark chocolate – 2.5 pounds each week.
- Reducing Blood Pressure – After analyzing 20 studies, Cochrane Collaborations published a report finding that small to moderate amounts of dark chocolate or cocoa was enough to lower blood pressure in study subjects – a small “but statistically significant” positive effect. The abstract of another study, which came to similar findings, concluded:“Data…indicate that inclusion of small amounts of polyphenol-rich dark chocolate as part of a usual diet efficiently reduced BP…”
- Easing Stress – A study, published in the Journal of Proteome Research found that individuals who are highly stressed benefit from daily consumption of dark chocolate. After analyzing stress and anxiety levels at the beginning, at the halfway point, and at the end of the two week study, researchers found that both hormone levels and self-assessed stress levels decreased over the two-week period.
- Promoting Dental Health (Cocoa Bean Husk) – Due to high sugar content, chocolate isn’t great for your teeth, though it is better than other candies since it doesn’t tend to linger and the cocoa butter is mildly protective. But research has found that one part of the cocoa plant – the cocoa bean husk – can actually promote better dental health.
- Enhance Vision, Promote Eye Health – Scientists with the University of Reading in England tested the vision of 30 men and women before and a few hours after eating a chocolate bar. Half received white chocolate and half received dark chocolate. Individuals who consumed dark chocolate performed better on vision tests than initially and better than those who consumed white chocolate.
- Weight Loss – In one study examining the fat-burning effects of chocolate consumption, researchers report that those who ate chocolate a few times per week were slimmer than those who ate it occasionally. Frequency seemed to matter more than the amount of chocolate consumed.
- Boosting Brain Function – Further adding to the health benefits of chocolate, the food could also improve cognitive performance.“For the first time, regular cocoa flavanol consumption has been shown to positively affect cognitive function in older adults with early memory decline,” said the author of one study. Italian researchers also found in another study that individuals consuming a moderate and larger amount of a cocoa flavonol beverage had enhanced hand-eye coordination, verbal memory, and task-switching.
A Health Benefits of Chocolate Summary – Dark Chocolate is Great for:
- Lowering blood pressure
- Simulating endorphin production
- Easing stress and depression, improving mood
- Slowing aging
- Fighting cancer
- Preventing oxidative stress and damage from free radicals
- Treating and preventing cough
- Enhancing vision and eye health
- Weight loss
- Boosting heart health, preventing stroke
- Anemia (iron)
- Protection against toxic fluoride (selenium)
- Diabetes management (dark chocolate especially important)
Remember to go for organic dark chocolate for the most benefits, and to share all of the health benefits of chocolate with your family and friends!