Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate November 2023
The beans of the Theobroma cacao tree also referred to as the cacao or cocoa tree, are used to make chocolate products, notably dark chocolate.
Though the exact amount varies depending on the type of dark chocolate purchased, dark chocolate has a higher cocoa content than milk or semi-sweet chocolate.
Most chocolate products have a cocoa content of 70–85%, while other varieties may have substantially lower or higher cocoa content. For instance, 90% or more of the cocoa solids in very dark chocolate can be found.1.
Dark chocolate has a high cocoa solid content, which makes it rich in minerals and plant-based chemicals that may improve heart disease risk factors and enhance digestive health, among other health benefits.
This is all the information you need to know about chocolate’s hazards, nutrients, and possible health advantages.
A Source of Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Compounds
Products from cocoa, such as chocolate, are rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredients.
Antioxidants work to shield cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. Highly reactive chemicals known as free radicals can harm health when they outweigh the body’s antioxidant defenses.
Oxidative stress, a condition brought on by an overabundance of free radical production, has been connected to several chronic illnesses, including heart disease and some types of cancer. By interacting with free radicals and neutralizing them before they may harm lipids, proteins, and DNA, antioxidants lessen or prevent cellular damage.2.
Antioxidants found in dark chocolate, particularly flavonoid molecules like proanthocyanidins, anthocyanins, and catechins, are highly beneficial.
Studies indicate that of all foods, cocoa products—like chocolate—have the highest flavonoid content by weight. Dark chocolate has five times more flavonoids than milk chocolate because it contains more cocoa solids.
Additionally, dark chocolate has potent anti-inflammatory properties. Eating dark chocolate is an excellent way to reduce inflammatory indicators, as demonstrated by numerous research. In a 2023 study,
for instance, participants who consumed 40 grams (g) of chocolate containing 70% cocoa three times a week for two months showed lower blood levels of the inflammatory marker tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) than the control group.
The study included 59 people who were receiving hemodialysis.4.
Consuming dark chocolate has been demonstrated in previous studies to be beneficial in reducing various inflammatory indicators in individuals with established inflammatory disorders, such as type 2 diabetes.5 These markers include interleukin-6 (IL-6) and susceptible C-reactive protein (hs-CRP).
May Benefit Heart Health
Eating cocoa-based goods, such as chocolate, can be tasty and beneficial to promote heart health. Atherosclerosis, or plaque accumulation in the arteries, high blood pressure, and cholesterol, are heart disease risk factors that dark chocolate may help prevent or lessen. This is because it contains a significant amount of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant substances.
Research indicates that eating dark chocolate lowers the risk of coronary heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes, as well as the amount of atherosclerotic plaque in the coronary arteries.
Consuming chocolate as part of a heart-healthy diet may help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, two risk factors for heart disease. Cocoa eating significantly reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in adults with normal and high blood pressure, according to a 2022 analysis of 31 research.
Researchers found that chocolate has a more significant blood pressure-lowering effect than chocolate drinks and that goods containing higher levels of flavonoid antioxidants in chocolate had the greatest effect.
Consuming chocolate has also been demonstrated to increase blood vessel function and blood flow lower blood sugar, triglyceride, and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, all of which can reduce the risk of heart disease.
For instance, a 2021 analysis of eight research examining the benefits of cocoa and dark chocolate consumption in individuals with type 2 diabetes discovered a strong correlation between the consumption of dark chocolate and lower levels of fasting blood sugar and LDL cholesterol.
Rich in Minerals
Products made with chocolate have unusually high levels of some nutrients. Dark chocolate, for instance, is a great way to get minerals like iron and magnesium.
Magnesium is required for neuron function, muscle contraction, blood pressure regulation, DNA synthesis, and muscle contraction. Even though getting enough magnesium daily is essential for good health, many people need more of this vital component in their diets. Selecting foods high in magnesium, such as vegetables, beans, and cocoa products, is crucial because magnesium deficiency can result in health problems, including elevated blood pressure.
A one-ounce portion of chocolate with 70–85% cocoa solids provides 64.6 mg of magnesium or 15% of the Daily Value (DV). chocolate is high in magnesium.
Additionally, dark chocolate contains a lot of iron, a mineral required for growth and development, cellular function, the manufacture of specific hormones, and the formation of hemoglobin. This protein delivers oxygen throughout the body.
Iron content in an ounce of 70-85% dark chocolate is 3.37 mg or 19% of the DV.
chocolate is an excellent supplier of manganese and copper in addition to iron and magnesium. While copper is a cofactor for enzymes involved in energy production, neurotransmitter synthesis, iron metabolism, and other processes, manganese is essential for immune system function and energy metabolism.
May Support Gut Health
Your gut’s overall health, including the microbiota (collective term for the bacteria in your digestive system), is greatly influenced by the foods you eat.
Prebiotics and other nutrients known to be good for the gut are found in dark chocolate. Prebiotics are substances that provide your digestive tract’s friendly microorganisms with nourishment. Eating meals high in prebiotic fibers may aid in fostering the development of good bacteria, enhancing intestinal health.14.
Forty-eight healthy adults participated in a 2022 study that discovered that after consuming 30 grams of 85% chocolate for three weeks, the subjects’ gut flora significantly increased in diversity and had higher concentrations of the bacteria Blautia obeum, which is responsible for producing the short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) butyrate. Like butyrate, SCFAs are substances that nourish the intestinal lining of the large intestine, preserve intestinal health, and control inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract.14.
Additionally, the 85% chocolate group showed benefits in mood, which the researchers linked to higher Blautia bacterial abundance.14.
Consuming premium dark chocolate may have a favorable effect on gut health and elevate your mood.
Nutrition of Dark Chocolate
Surprisingly, dark chocolate has a lot of nutrients, including iron and magnesium.
The following is a nutritional analysis of one ounce of 70–85% dark chocolate.
12.1 grams (g) of fat
2.21 g of protein
13 g of carbohydrates
3.09 g of fiber
6.8 g of sugar
0.5 mg of copper, or 56% of the DV
3.37 mg of iron, or 19% of the DV, is available.
Magnesium: 15% of the DV, or 64.6 mg
Zinc: 8% of the DV, or 0.93 mg
In addition to being high in minerals like magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc, vital for general health, dark chocolate is also an excellent source of fiber. In more minor levels, it also contains potassium, vitamin K, and phosphorus, among other vitamins and minerals.
Because of its comparatively high-calorie content, it is best to consume it in moderation instead of huge servings.
Risks of Dark Chocolate
As was already said, dark chocolate has a lot of calories; thus, eating significant amounts of it should be avoided. Consuming excessive amounts of chocolate may cause you to overeat, resulting in weight gain.
Additionally, some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others, which is a component of all products made with cocoa. Theobromine is another naturally occurring stimulant found in chocolate. Due to the stimuli in dark chocolate, overindulging can have adverse effects like insomnia, anxiety, and jitters, especially in those who are coffee-sensitive.
Furthermore, studies indicate that consuming cocoa products in the latter stages of pregnancy may narrow the ductus arteriosus. This fetal blood vessel may have detrimental effects on the health of the fetus.
Women who are farther along in their pregnancies should refrain from ingesting significant quantities of cocoa-based goods, such as dark chocolate, due to this possible risk.
Tips for Consuming Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Though dark chocolate has health benefits, it’s crucial to remember that it also has added sugar and a high-calorie content, which should be avoided in any healthy diet.
It is, therefore, advisable to consume dark chocolate sparingly as a special treat.
Here are some ideas for incorporating dark chocolate into your diet:
To enhance the flavor of baked items like breads and muffins, add bits of dark chocolate.
Combine dark chocolate chips with energy balls and granola.
Enjoy a piece of dark chocolate with natural peanut butter slathered on it.For a healthy treat, dunk fresh fruit, like bananas or strawberries, into melted dark chocolate.Create your trail mix with nuts, unsweetened dried fruit, and dark chocolate.
It’s crucial to remember that certain products have significantly more added sugar than others when you’re buying. Products made with chocolate that have less cocoa solids in them typically have more added sugar, as do those that have sugary additives like toffee and caramel.
For instance, an ounce of Lindt 90% chocolate has just two grams of added sugar, compared to nine grams in the same serving of Lindt 70%
While occasionally consuming foods high in added sugar won’t have a significant adverse effect on your health, consuming added sugar in excess can raise your chance of developing several diseases, including type 2 diabetes, liver disease, and obesity.