Chocolate is a decadent treat we just love to eat. But besides tasting good, chocolate actually has some amazing health benefits that you need to know about! Read below to find out how this age-old guilty pleasure has actually been used to heal the body for thousands of years, from boosting your mood to supporting healthy skin. Now you can enjoy chocolate both for its taste and benefits to your entire body!
Is Dark Chocolate Right for You?
By Further Food
This article highlights the health benefits of dark chocolate in general; though it’s important that you consider the type of chocolate product you are consuming. Not all chocolate that you buy in the supermarket is good for you-this is because of the many ways it can be produced, with added sugars, dairy, and artificial ingredients. So make sure you read the label and avoid any chocolate that has added sugars or other artificial ingredients.
6 Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
Everybody loves chocolate. Chocolate has always been known as a treat for indulging, a guilty pleasure, but did you know that chocolate isn’t necessarily as bad for you as most people think? Chocolate itself is made of tropical Theobroma tree cacao seeds that are processed and prepared in different ways, from chocolate bars to pastes to liquids. This household treat is typically sweet and considered a candy, but we want you to know that chocolate indeed carries its own set of health benefits that may surprise you, and we especially want to highlight the health benefits of dark chocolate, because that chocolate is the most potent – especially in some of its purest forms! From increasing your energy to simply making you feel happy, read more to find out how giving in to your chocolate craving can actually heal you in many ways!
1. Chocolate can lift your mood!
Go on and enjoy that chocolate because cocoa is a natural antidepressant! Cocoa contains a combination of caffeine, a type of alkaloid, phenylethylamine, and theobromine, which together are quite effective in elevating mood and fighting depression. In a study of 72 human subjects, scientists found that those who consumed high doses of a dark chocolate drink mix experienced an increase in calmness and contentedness in comparison to their placebo counterparts. You might have felt that natural high from eating chocolate, and now you know that there is a nutritional and scientific reason why chocolate can make you calm and happy!
2. Chocolate can support heart health
Cocoa is known for reducing the body’s levels of LDL cholesterol, which is bad cholesterol. At the same time, cocoa can also increase levels of HDL cholesterol, or good cholesterol! The Journal of Nutrition published a study that suggests that chocolate consumption can possibly support overall cardiovascular health through its reduction of cholesterol and improvement of blood pressure. In fact, another study found that chocolate consumption can substantially reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, disorders, and stroke by as much as one-third!
3. Chocolate helps support skin health
Though many people link chocolate to acne, this has more to do with sugar than cocoa. Chocolate itself is actually quite nice for your skin – the flavonoids contribute to skin thickness and density, leaving your skin stronger and more resistant against the effects of harmful UV rays. Chocolate has also been studied to hydrate your skin too.
Chocolate contains antioxidant compounds, including flavonols and polyphenols, which fight free radicals and prevent oxidative stress. This is huge news because oxidative stress is the damage to our body cells and tissues, which can lead to the development of many diseases and harmful conditions: diabetes, heart disease, and cancer; to name a few. Oxidative stress also contributes to our natural aging process. Antioxidants help reduce this damage, and so chocolate has the potential to be a great support for your general health. In fact, cocoa has been shown to contain more antioxidants than most foods, with dark chocolate’s antioxidant activity even beating that of fruits like blueberries and acai berries! That means chocolate can not only protect you from sunburn but also be effective in anti-aging, helping you look and feel young!
4. Chocolate can be helpful in treating colds
You might be surprised about this health benefit of chocolate! Cocoa is rich in vitamin C, flavonoids, and alkaloids. This means it can be helpful in protecting you from coughs and colds. Theobromine is a major component in cocoa and chocolate that is responsible for this health benefit of chocolate This substance has been shown to inhibit airway sensory nerve activation and thereby prevent coughs. Additionally, some acids found in chocolate, like palmitic acid, are also effective for sore throat relief and pesky coughs and colds that seem to not go away. Who knew something so delicious could be so healing?
5. Chocolate can support fetal growth
The health benefits of dark chocolate just keep going, and this one is quite a fun fact! Studies found that consuming chocolate during pregnancy can benefit the development of the fetus by supporting a baby’s growth, health, and temperament. In fact, the newborn babies of pregnant women that consumed chocolate daily were reported to have more positively rated moods than the infants of mothers who did not. So chocolate helps both mom and baby!
6. Chocolate can help diarrhea
Diarrhea is something that we all have to deal with at some point in our life. You might be surprised to know that the flavonoids in cocoa are able to inhibit CFTR, a protein in the intestines that regulates fluid secretion. A famous 2005 study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that cocoa flavonoids can prevent such fluid loss, therefore regulating bowel movement and possibly serving as a remedy for diarrhea. Fluid secretion, in this case in the small intestines, can be a dangerous part of diarrhea. Too much fluid loss from diarrhea can lead to weakness and dehydration. The 2005 study showed that flavonoids in cocoa can help prevent such fluid loss. Interestingly, cocoa has been used by ancient South American and European cultures as a treatment for diarrhea, and now we understand why!
Are You Avoiding Chocolate? 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Be
By Amy Medling
When you are trying to lose weight or change your eating habits, what’s the first thing you cut out of your diet? Most likely it’s sweets. If you struggle with weight loss or insulin regulation, like those with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), you may wonder if you will ever be able to indulge in something truly decadent and delicious again without feeling guilty.
Good news: the answer is a resounding YES! Dark chocolate, specifically, is one of the most craved and sought after foods on the planet, and it’s your mindfully indulgent answer. Aside from its irresistible taste, here’s why you can feel good about having chocolate on your menu:
1. It can help lower your BMI.
In a study of more than 1,000 people at the University of California, San Diego, researchers found that people who consumed chocolate more days per week were thinner – and had a lower BMI – than those who ate chocolate less often. “Epicatechin from cocoa causes greater control over food urges and is more satisfying than other treats,” said Dr. Peter McCullough, a cardiologist at St. John Providence Health in Warren, Mich. “Higher cocoa chocolate is relatively low in sugar and the fatty acid in chocolate products is probably not as worrisome as other fats. On the whole, a little superior quality chocolate is good to add to the diet of those trying to lose weight.”
Try these Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Balls!
2. Chocolate may increase insulin sensitivity.
An Italian study found that regularly eating chocolate increases insulin sensitivity, thereby reducing risk for diabetes. Study participants ate dark chocolate once a day for 15 days and saw their potential for insulin resistance drop by nearly half. “Flavonoids increase nitric oxide production,” says study researcher Claudio Ferri, M.D. “And that helps control insulin sensitivity.”
Prefer nuts with your chocolate? You’ll love these Dark Chocolate Candied Walnut Clusters.
3. Chocolate reduces stress.
In a recent study, people who rated themselves highly stressed to begin with had lower levels of stress hormones after eating chocolate every day for two weeks. The study’s subjects ate 1.4 ounces (40g) of dark chocolate daily.
There’s nothing better than melted chocolate, like in this 3-Ingredient Dark Chocolate Fondue recipe.
4. Chocolate is good for your heart.
Adding only half an ounce of dark chocolate to an average American diet was shown to be enough to increase total antioxidant capacity 4 percent, and lessen oxidation of LDL cholesterol. In a 9-year Swedish study of more than 33,000 women, those who ate one or two servings of dark chocolate each week cut their risk for stroke by as much as a third.
Spicy Chocolate Chili Pepper Bark? Yes, please!
5. Chocolate increases serotonin and makes you feel good.
Produced by your brain, serotonin is the “feel good” hormone. When your brain produces enough of it, you feel calm, confident and happy. Women with PCOS sometimes lack adequate serotonin. Chocolate contains tryptophan, a chemical in the brain that is used to produce the neurotransmitter. You’re not imagining that you feel better after enjoying some good chocolate, your body really likes it!
You can even enjoy a slice of this Protein-Packed, Low Sugar, Melt-in-Your-Mouth Chocolate Pie.
“When you are looking for dark chocolate, the flavor peaks at between 60 and 70 percent cocoa. The darker you go, the less flavor you get. It is easier to find a good 65 percent than a good 85 percent,” explains Richard Tango-Lowy, master chocolatier of Dancing Lion Chocolate. When you can’t visit a boutique chocolate shop when a craving strikes, there are a couple of supermarket brands that will suffice; Dagoba and Green and Black fit the bill. My favorite dark chocolate, though, is Lake Champlain Chocolate.
Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.