Is Chocolate Good for Health?
Chocolate is good for health. Chocolate-lovers can finally get excited that regular consumption of chocolate is undoubtedly good for health. Perhaps you have heard this good news already and since created a special place for your stash of Hershey bars within the kitchen cabinet. It is important to take note, however, that research indicates it is only a specific kind of chocolate and a specific amount that will produce health benefits–dark chocolate.
For you, I’ve poured over the chocolate research and filtered down exactly what you need to know about chowing down on chocolate for health.
How Is Chocolate Made
Chocolates are good for health; but first, to be sure we are all on the same page, let’s cover exactly how chocolate is made.
The chocolate-making process starts by harvesting raw cacao beans. The cacao beans are then fermented, dried, and roasted. Next, the beans are shelled and the cacao nib residing within is winnowed out. Grinding the nibs results in cocoa liquor–meaning, liquid cocoa. The cocoa liquor can be separated into two components–cocoa butter and cocoa powder. When the cocoa butter and cocoa powder are blended and prepared with other ingredients, such as milk and sugar, it creates one of our oldest and most favorite confectionaries–chocolate.
Dark Chocolate for Health
Let’s be clear that when it comes to eating chocolate for health, I am not talking about Snickers, M&M’s, Twix ,or Hershey’s milk chocolate bars, as these treats are often mixed with other unhealthy ingredients such as hydrogenated fats; they contain high amounts of sugar and their cacao content is minimal. The studies I reference below include testing primarily with dark chocolate and in relatively small amounts.
According to Dr. Chris Kresser, L.Ac in his book Your Personal Paleo Code, if you can tolerate chocolate (meaning your body doesn’t have a negative reaction after you eat it), you should stick with dark chocolate that is greater than 70% cacao content, with 85% preferred, and consume roughly the size of a silver dollar daily. So, that is what you would aim for in healthful chocolate consumption. (And that would be after you check with your doctor first, of course.)
Now, without further adieu, here are 10 reasons to eat chocolate for health…
Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
(The Health Benefits of Chocolate*)
1. Chocolate is nutrient dense. Something for chocoholics to get happy about is that cacao is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet! Several studies have declared it to be in the top ten most nutrient dense foods available for human consumption.
Likewise, chocolate with a high cacao content is also nutrient dense.
2. Chocolate supports mental performance. A study at the University of Nottingham found that cocoa consumption increases blood flow to certain areas of the brain and could help with performance and alertness for 2 to 3 hours.
Further, research at Oxford University determined that people over age 70 who consumed chocolate, wine and tea, which are all high in flavanols, performed significantly better on cognitive tests as opposed to those who didn’t.
3. Chocolate improves heart health. There are countless studies showing the benefits of dark chocolate on heart health, but there are three worth noting:
- According to research reported by the American Chemical Society, some of the bacteria that live in our stomachs like to consume the chocolate we eat and then ferment it into anti-inflammatory compounds that are healthy for our hearts.
- The Cleveland Clinic reports that the flavanols found in chocolate can improve vascular health by lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow to the brain and heart.
- A study published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology says that “dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels,” both of which contribute to heart disease.
4. Chocolate reduces stress and anxiety. Recent studies have demonstrated that eating a small amount of dark chocolate on a daily basis reduces stress hormone levels.
5. Chocolate aids in regulating cholesterol. Chocolate can boost HDL cholesterol (aka good cholesterols) and can decrease LDL cholesterol (aka bad cholesterols).
6. Chocolate helps you lose weight by reducing cravings. A study at the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Copenhagen demonstrated that dark chocolate is filling. In the study, people were less hungry and ate less after partaking in a bit of dark chocolate.
7. Chocolate assists with pain and depression. Chocoholics know that eating chocolate can boost their mood. The reason behind this is that aside from its yummy flavor, chocolate contains a chemical called anandamide that blocks feelings of pain and depression for a short period of time.
8. Chocolate reduces the risk of stroke. Eating a moderate amount of chocolate each week has been associated with reducing the risk for stroke in men and women.
9. Chocolate improves skin health and appearance. Flavanols are found in chocolate and they function in the body as antioxidants. It has been shown that the flavanols present in chocolate can help protect your skin from the sun.
In one study, those who were eating high flavanol chocolate took twice as long to develop skin reddening in the sun. Another study indicated that high flavanol cocoa can increase skin density and hydration and decrease skin roughness and scaling.
10. Chocolate contains resveratol. Resveratol is a super-powerful antioxidant, but what makes it unique is that it can cross the blood-brain barrier thus protecting your brain and nervous system.
According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, resveratol is great because it:
- Reduces oxidative stress damage to our cardiovascular system.
- Helps support our body’s natural defenses.
- Protects cells from free radical damage.
- Inhibits the spread of cancer, especially prostate cancer.
- May increase the lifespan of human cells.
- Lowers blood pressure.
- Improves elasticity in the blood vessels.
- Normalizes anti-inflammatory responses.
- Slows down signs of aging.
- Helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Chocolate is both indulging and healthy so do go ahead and enjoy it! Just remember that a little goes a long way in bettering your health. The same goes with eating chocolates.