No more guilt! Numerous scientific studies have demonstrated the health benefits of dark chocolate.
Indeed, dark chocolate is very healthy and can provide various health benefits, such as reducing the risk of blood clotting, increasing good cholesterol levels, decreasing blood pressure as well as reducing the risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
The important thing is to choose the right chocolate, containing at least 60% cocoa: the recommended amounts are in the order of 30 to 50 grams per day. In small doses, the benefits are legion.
1. Rich in vitamins and minerals
Every type of chocolate – including milk chocolate and white chocolate – is rich in vitamins A and B12. These vitamins ensure, among other things, healthy teeth and bones. Dark chocolate also contains a lot of vitamin B due to the high amount of cocoa, which is important for energy production and DNA synthesis and repair.
In addition to vitamins, dark chocolate also gives you a solid boost of the minerals magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, and zinc. The latter three substances promote the cell renewal process. They increase the flow of blood and oxygen to the scalp, making your hair stronger and healthier. Magnesium, in turn, brings your stress levels down.
2. Rich in antioxidants
Dark chocolate has a potent antioxidant effect. Indeed, tests are regularly carried out to see how well the antioxidants from a certain food can eliminate harmful free radicals. Dark chocolate scores very high during these tests.
This is possible because dark chocolate is rich in natural compounds that act as antioxidants, such as polyphenols and flavanols. In one study, it was even said that dark chocolate had a greater antioxidant activity than the fruits tested.
3. Rich flavanols
Dark chocolate contains a lot of cocoa. Cocoa is rich in flavanols. These substances are very important and can counteract many diseases and complaints including the risk of heart diseases, asthma, and type 2 diabetes.
4. Lowers blood pressure
Certain substances in dark chocolate stimulate the production of nitrogen oxide. This ensures relaxed and flexible blood vessels and also improves blood circulation. As a result, the resistance to the blood flow decreases, which lowers blood pressure.
Several studies have provided evidence of this. During one study, healthy test subjects ate dark chocolate for 15 days (as a supplement to a healthy diet). After 15 days, it was found that their blood pressure was lower.
5. Stimulates memory and concentration
A study by researchers at Syracuse University shows that dark chocolate would be able to improve intellectual performance. Consumed before an important exam or test, it soothes and comforts the consumer, promotes visual memory, information processing, and recording.
In addition, cocoa is made up of flavonoids, antioxidants that can boost concentration.
6. Increases good cholesterol levels
Research has shown that eating dark chocolate can increases the amount of good cholesterol (HDL) and lowers the “bad” cholesterol (LDL). Dark chocolate has a beneficial effect on LDL cholesterol because cocoa contains antioxidants that can prevent damage from oxidation.
7. Reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases
A study in which test subjects ate dark chocolate more than 5 times a week has shown that eating dark chocolate regularly reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by 57%.
Another study shows that eating dark chocolate also reduces the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 50%. This study was conducted with 470 older men over a period of 15 years.
The reason why dark chocolate has this effect on cardiovascular diseases has to do with the antihypertensive effect and the reduction of bad cholesterol.
8. A powerful natural antidepressant
Eating dark chocolate when feeling tired is a common habit in adults and children. Thanks to the substances contained in cocoa, capable of increasing the production of endorphin, it helps maintain mood and positions itself as a powerful way to boost your mood.
9. Fights insomnia and promotes sleep
England’s Northumbria University has looked at another benefit of chocolate. The one that promotes sleep. Indeed, serotonin, contained in dark chocolate, has relaxation powers. Consuming chocolate before going to bed is, therefore, a good idea. One more pleasure, without guilt.
10. Prevents blood clotting
By eating dark chocolate, you can reduce your risk of blood clotting. As a result, you are less likely to have a stroke or heart attack when blood clots move through the bloodstream.
11. Reduces the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s
Research shows that elderly people who eat a lot of dark chocolate have a reduced risk of dementia. This is possible because cocoa contains many antioxidants that counteract this risk.
The risk of Alzheimer’s is also reduced thanks to dark chocolate, as eating it reduces insulin resistance. Today, it is believed that insensitivity to insulin plays an important role in developing Alzheimer’s.
The brain cells appear to die when they do not get enough glucose. However, by eating dark chocolate, this can be prevented, which reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s.
12. It improves sports performance
Chocolate is also known for its benefits for athletes. By reducing stress, chocolate also decreases the rise in cortisol. The latter is often the culprit for cramps and low performance. The magnesium, flavonoids, serotonin, and epicatechin found in dark chocolate also promote optimal physical performance.
13. Protects the skin from UV radiation
Resistance to UV radiation is measured by the amount of MED present. A lot of MED means a lot of resistance to UV radiation. By eating dark chocolate, you can increase this amount.
This is shown by a study in which healthy test subjects ate a lot of dark chocolate for 12 weeks. After this period, the amount of MED had doubled. Eating dark chocolate can therefore increase the resistance to UV radiation.
14. Improves insulin sensitivity
Dark chocolate can improve insulin sensitivity and helps people lose weight healthy and quickly. This was shown by a study in which glucose-intolerant test subjects ate chocolate for 15 days.
One group ate 100 grams of dark chocolate per day during this period, while the other group ate 100 grams of white chocolate. At the end of the study, it was found that dark chocolate improves the function of the beta cells, increasing insulin sensitivity. White chocolate does not have this effect at all. This is possible because dark chocolate contains many polyphenols, while white chocolate does not contain them.
15. Reduces fatty liver
Research has shown that cocoa in dark chocolate can have a healing effect in people suffering from a less severe form of fatty liver (accumulation of fat in the liver cells). This is shown by a test in which rats with fatty liver were given supplements with cocoa. As a result, the effects of fatty liver decreased.
16. Improves the ability to learn
Eating dark chocolate improves scores during cognitive tests. This is possible because there are a lot of flavanols in cocoa. These penetrate the areas of the brain that are important for memory and the learning process.
In addition, dark chocolate also contains caffeine. The amount of this is not enough to keep you awake at night, but it is enough to affect the brain. This improves memory, concentration, and mood.
17. Increases the number of good bacteria in the gut
Dark chocolate acts as a probiotic, increasing the good bacteria in the intestinal tract and decreasing the bad bacteria. This can bring many important health benefits, including the protection of the brain. Bad bacteria can reduce the important chemicals in the brain. Because dark chocolate counteracts this, the brain is protected.
18. Protects the brain from free radical damage
Free radicals can cause damage to your body and especially the brain because oxygen molecules attach to cells and tissues. This happens in much the same way as with metal that begins to rust. Because dark chocolate contains many antioxidants, this can protect the brain cells from harmful free radicals. This can reduce the aging of the cells.
19. It’s good for moms and their babies
A Finnish study shows that chocolate reduces the amount of stress in pregnant women and that mother’s babies laugh more than the children of parents who do not eat chocolate.
20. It potentially prevents diabetes
Dark chocolate could delay or even prevent insulin resistance or pre-diabetes because it improves insulin sensitivity.
According to a review of the scientific literature, flavonoids contained in cocoa plants can help with insulin resistance by enhancing endothelial function, changing glucose metabolism, and lowering oxidative stress. Insulin resistance is thought to be caused mostly by oxidative damage.
Betsy is a true science nerd, down to the glasses. Her words, not mine! She works as a nurse specializing in pediatric nursing. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She is passionate about all thing pregnancy and baby-related.