Dark chocolate has been shown to reduce heart disease, improve cardiovascular function, fight diabetes and even aid weight loss. When it comes to mighty, healthy snacking, you can't beat dark chocolate and once you know these scientifically proven health benefits, you’ll never go back
Scientifically proven health benefits of dark chocolate include
- Preventing heart disease
- Improving mental health
- Boosting gut health
And much more, keep reading for the next six. You will NOT believe #5!
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What makes dark chocolate so good?
Dark chocolate is highly nutritious with a wealth of goodness thanks to the lack of processing it goes through. Only minimal sugar is added and little processing occurs to transform the awesome cacao bean into a dark chocolate bar, making it a totally different end product to highly processed milk chocolate which contains little if any of that original cacao goodness.
The benefits of dark chocolate are in its high concentration of:
- Antioxidants – molecules that fight free radicals, essential for optimal health
- Flavonoids – rich in antioxidants to help combat toxins and boost health
Minerals – just 50g of a moderately dark (75% plus) bar contains:
- 6g fibre
- 35% recommendation daily intake (RDI) of iron
- 30% RDI magnesium
- 45% RDI copper
- 50% RDI manganese
- Hefty doses of potassium and zinc
- A solid 5g protein
Let’s dive into the benefits.
Alongside a wealth of scientifically proven health benefits, dark chocolate tastes fab
Dark chocolate health benefit #1: Prevent heart disease
Two of the biggest causes of heart disease are high blood pressure and high cholesterol, both of which are reduced by dark chocolate consumption. Plenty of research has been done in this field, illustrating this positive relationship:
- This study from the Journal of Nutrition found “substances derived from cocoa powder may contribute to a reduction in LDL [‘bad’] cholesterol, an elevation in HDL [‘good’] cholesterol, and the suppression of oxidized LDL.”
- A systematic review of multiple studies evaluating the relationship between dark chocolate and cardiovascular disease concluded: “A full range of health benefits can be associated to the actions of flavanols on vascular function…chocolate and cocoa derivatives are among the most valuable components of such a diet”.
- Another showed habitual dark chocolate consumption is “associated with a lower risk of future cardiovascular events”.
Give your ticker an upgrade – add dark chocolate to your next shop
Dark chocolate health benefit #2: Reduce depression
Theobromine and anandamide are key components of dark chocolate, both of which have been shown to reduce blood pressure and improve mood. Another is phenethylamine, which converts to serotonin, one of the most well-known mood-boosters.
A 2018 study found “the higher the concentration of cacao, the more positive the impact on cognition, memory, mood, immunity and other beneficial effects.”
Dark chocolate health benefit #3: Reduce stroke risk
Flavonoids stimulate the lining of arteries to produce nitric oxide which relaxes arterial walls which lowers blood resistance and reduces blood pressure.
- “the inclusion of small amounts of dark chocolate efficiently reduced blood pressure.”
- “consistent acute and chronic benefits of chocolate on flow-mediated dilation [relaxed arteries].”
Dark chocolate health benefit #4: Combat diabetes
Stabilise blood sugar levels with dark chocolate
Dark chocolate boosts insulin function and reduces oxidative stress – a primary cause of insulin resistance and the onset of diabetes.
This brilliant study provided evidence that flavonoids are “useful in slowing the progression to type 2 diabetes and ameliorating insulin resistance in metabolic syndrome.”
Another proved flavanols to have “previously unreported promising effects on insulin.”
Dark chocolate health benefit #5: Good for gut health
As one expert put it, “a healthy microbiome translates into a healthy human”.
Dark chocolate health benefit #6: Aids weight loss
Consumption of dark chocolate – in moderation, of course, because calories matter (more on that below) – can help with weight loss goals but:
- Improving insulin sensitivity
- Reducing appetite and cravings
- Boosting mood
Who’d have thought it? Dark chocolate can actually aid weight loss
So, while dark chocolate can help stabilise blood sugar levels, it’s the neurological impact that makes the real difference here. Flavanols elevate serotonin, enhance mood and reduce depression, all of which mean we’re less likely to act of cravings.
Dark chocolate - a word on calories
The above benefits should – I hope – encourage you to switch out milk and white for a dark bar on your next food shop.
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But beware that dark chocolate is still calorie-dense so, despite the amazing health benefits, portion control is required. This isn’t unusual - many other superfoods such as avocado and coconut oil pack a wealth of goodness but are also high in calories, it’s just another part of what makes them super.