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!
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!
Dark Chocolate for Men
Studies have actually shown that dark chocolate can be particularly beneficial for men. In fact, they have shown that the benefits of dark chocolate for men are even greater than that for women! For example, one study showed that cocoa powder significantly decreases oxidized LDL in men, as well as decreased total LDL levels in men who have high cholesterol. Another study conducted on elderly men showed that could reduce men’s risk for heart disease by 50%! The benefits of dark chocolate for men and women are similar, however science shows that men derive these amazing benefits just a bit more, especially when it comes to heart health. This may be because women’s bodies seem to dilute the impact. Nevertheless, dark chocolate can greatly benefit everyone, regardless of gender!
Is Dark Chocolate Right for You?
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.
A simple rule: the darker the chocolate, the richer it is in cocoa and nutritional value. Look for chocolate that has 70% or higher total cocoa content. And while we may have said that the health benefits of dark chocolate for men can be greater than that for women, a moderate serving of rich dark chocolate a day can certainly do anyone some good!
Cacao versus cocoa
You also may be wondering: what is the difference between cacao and cocoa? Raw cacao is the purest form of chocolate as it comes from unroasted cacao beans. This includes cacao nibs, cacao butter, and cacao powder. Cacao beans are a true superfood, high in antioxidants, and are rich in nutrients including magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and manganese.
Cocoa powder is made from raw cacao that has been roasted at high temperatures. Cocoa and cocoa powders are what is often used in baking or in cocoa powders. Cocoa and cocoa powder can still provide plentiful health benefits described above, but the key thing is to make sure that there are no added sugars, artificial ingredients or fillers in your cocoa powder. Note that some cocoa powders are processed with alkalized solution (also sometimes referred to as dutch-processed cocoa); this is to help minimize acidity and to maintain the richness of the cocoa.
You might want to consider a no sugar added cocoa powder such as Further Food Chocolate Collagen. This no sugar added cocoa powder blend can be used to make delicious chocolate-y recipes that will give you the health benefits of chocolate, plus a lot of other benefits from the collagen peptides and reishi mushroom. Because there are no additives, and only four real food ingredients, you can still benefit greatly from the cocoa powder.
- Chocolate is made of processed cacao seeds and has been consumed for thousands of years for both its medicinal properties and delicious taste.
- Chocolate can enhance your mood and help you feel happy.
- Chocolate can support heart health by preventing stroke and lowering bad cholesterol.
- Chocolate can treat colds, coughs, and sore throats.
- Consuming chocolate during pregnancy can help improve fetal development and infant temperament.
- Chocolate can hydrate your skin and prevent sunburn.
- Chocolate can be used as a remedy for diarrhea.
- Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is rich in antioxidants.
- Be cautious with chocolate consumption – the darker, the healthier.
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