Put down that candy bar! Nah, just kidding. Or are we? The information and misinformation surrounding the possible health benefits of dark chocolate are staggering. Some people say dark chocolate–chocolate containing at least 70% cocoa–can reduce stress, improve memory, and even help lower blood pressure. Other sources say dark chocolate, like any other chocolate, is still candy and is best avoided.
But what’s true? Can dark chocolate really reduce stress and improve memory? And if it can, how much is enough to reap the benefits without worrying about the risks? In today’s Fabulous Uncovers, we look at the possible benefits of chocolate and whether it’s worth incorporating chocolate into your stress management regimen.
How Does Dark Chocolate Affect Us?
The research on dark chocolate’s effect on the body is limited but growing. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how dark chocolate benefits us, if at all, but we do know that dark chocolate isn’t as unhealthy as one might assume.
One 100-gram bar of dark chocolate contains tons of vitamins and minerals, including 98% of the daily recommended amount of manganese, which aids in blood sugar regulation. It’s also high in iron, which is good for your blood.
In addition to the masses of minerals, dark chocolate also contains antioxidants. Raw, unprocessed cocoa is one of the most powerful fighters of free radicals of any food tested so far. Dark chocolate still contains many of these antioxidants, which can help protect the body from heart disease and cancer.
Finally, dark chocolate contains flavonols, which help our blood vessels relax. This can help lower blood pressure while also increasing blood flow throughout the body. This includes an increase of blood flow to our brains. The increased blood flow, combined with the reduction of our blood pressure, can help us feel more relaxed.
Eating dark chocolate also stimulates the release of endorphins, which make us feel happier and calmer. One of these endorphins, serotonin, is even a naturally occurring substance in dark chocolate.
Plus, dark chocolate is tasty! It’s hard to be sad when you’re eating something both delicious and nutritious.
Is it Worth it?
Before you go out and stock up on dark chocolate, there are some caveats worth noting. While dark chocolate does have some benefits, portion size matters. A small piece of dark chocolate every day or so can be very good for you. However, dark chocolate still contains sugars and fats, and overindulging will certainly lead to weight gain and could cause other health problems.
It’s also important to emphasize that the flavonols in dark chocolate are strongest in pure, unprocessed cocoa. Processing cocoa reduces or eliminates those beneficial compounds. Milk chocolate, for example, has virtually no flavonols, and white chocolate has none at all. Dutch-processed chocolate also lacks flavonols. Dark chocolate that contains 70% cocoa or more is what you should be looking for. If you can’t find any among the candy at your local grocery store, try the baking aisle. Baking chocolate is almost always pure cocoa, or close to it, and is less processed than the chocolate sold as treats.
So, to conclude, a small addition of dark chocolate into your diet can have numerous health benefits, but only specific types of dark chocolate, and only small amounts. If you want to reap those benefits, you’re better off eating dark chocolate as an occasional treat, not a staple.