Dark chocolate is one of the best ways to get rid of your sweet tooth craving, without feeling guilty or bad about it. While no foods should send you down a shame spiral, dark chocolate is extremely far from that list. Why? Because of the health benefits of dark chocolate for your entire body.
Chocolate in general is not the same story. Many chocolates come with additives, dairy, and too much sugar, which may affect others’ wellbeing. Also, all dark chocolate is not created equal because of these additives. Just like all sweet treats, some will come with health benefits, while others are solely just for a sweet. It is helpful to keep that in mind when shopping for your sweet treats.
What makes dark chocolate the star of the sweet treat show? It is full of flavonoids, phytonutrients that act as antioxidants in the body. Antioxidants are especially important for overall health and wellbeing. To reduce the buildup of free radicals, harmful inflammatory atoms that destroy healthy cells, antioxidants are necessary. Of course, antioxidants are also present in tons of healthy food, which is particularly helpful at keeping you well. Those foods include berries, nuts, and seeds, as well as leafy greens.
But, we’re here to tell you that you can eat your fruits and veggies, and have your sweets, too. Dark chocolate that is. The health benefits of dark chocolate are noteworthy and scientifically proven. Plus, it doesn’t have to be extremely bitter if you’re not into that. As long as the percentage is over 50%, you can reap the health benefits, which means you can leave out the bitterness too.
Table of Contents
- Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
- 1. It May Alleviate Stress
- 2. It May Improve Memory and Retention
- 3. It May Clear Up Your Vision
- 4. It May Help You Get to Sleep
- 5. It May Enhance Digestive Health
- 6. It May Improve Heart Health
- 7. It May Reduce the Risk of Some Cancers
- 8. It May Speed Up Your Metabolism
- 9. It May Reduce the Risk of Insulin Resistance
Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
The health benefits of dark chocolate are far and wide. So how can dark chocolate improve your health? There are many ways to use dark chocolate to your benefit, and enjoy more sweets this way, too. Check out the many reasons eating some dark chocolate can improve the health of your heart, brain, and more below.
1. It May Alleviate Stress
Dark chocolate is full of flavonoids that help to reduce inflammation in the body. This sweet snack may have the power to banish unnecessary stress, by reducing oxidative stress in the body. In fact, eating dark chocolate every day can be even more beneficial.
One study from the National Institutes of Health reported that participants who ate 40 grams of dark chocolate per day had significantly lower stress levels from when they started (1). And, these participants in the study were highly stressed people, to begin with. Furthermore, this study shows that dark and milk chocolate can have a positive effect on stress. All of the participants had something in common, too. They were all women. Ladies, don’t feel guilty about grabbing some chocolate here and there. And, you don’t need that much to do the job well.
To put it in perspective, 40 grams of chocolate is equal to about three squares on your average size chocolate bar. Three squares of chocolate a day may be your way to enjoy your sweets and reap the stress-free benefits.
2. It May Improve Memory and Retention
Since dark chocolate can reduce inflammation in the body, the brain may also benefit from consuming more dark chocolate. Don’t be afraid to indulge in dark chocolate, especially if you have an important exam coming up. The Cocoa flavanols in dark chocolate produce many nootropic benefits. Nootropics may improve cognitive function, particularly related to memory, concentration, and even motivation.
One study examined the effects of dark chocolate in healthy people, and the results were notable, but only for dark chocolate. Sorry milk chocolate, you’re out for this one. The study shows that healthy people who tried dark chocolate had positive brain activity, but those who had milk chocolate did not show any difference (2). That’s because dark chocolate has the highest flavonoid content. Another study shows similar results when tested on healthy, young adults (3).
If you are plan to be more productive and even want a motivation boost, dark chocolate may be a simple place to start.
3. It May Clear Up Your Vision
Move over, carrots. Some studies argue that dark chocolate may be a close contender to improving eye health. One study in the Jama Network shows that eating dark chocolate as opposed to milk chocolate improved vision in more ways than one (4). The health benefits of dark chocolate were present in contrast sensitivity (seeing an object beyond its background-mostly with large and small letters contrast) and visual acuity. Visual acuity is the overall measure of visual sharpness.
The study similarly tested young healthy adults with dark and milk chocolate over a period of time, but for this, they used Trader Joe’s chocolate both times. The dark chocolate was 72% dark.
And, as far as the health benefits of dark chocolate go, the darker the better for any way you benefit you may want. Not necessarily when it comes to the taste of chocolate, but the darker you go, the more health benefits you will receive.
4. It May Help You Get to Sleep
Dark chocolate may even be the star of the show when it comes to your bedtime routine. That’s because dark chocolate contains serotonin. Serotonin is a crucial hormone that works to calm us down, stabilizing our mood and emotional wellbeing. It is a great help when it comes to having a good night’s sleep.
So, it’s safe and even may be advisable to have it during the day and/or at night for your overall health. A healthy sleep cycle is one of the most important factors to follow when you are trying to improve your overall health. You can eat healthily, get adequate exercise, and meditate, but if you are not sleeping well, your body will suffer. Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep.
If you’re having trouble getting your zzzs lately, try a few squares of dark chocolate to provide some extra calm and ease your mind before you hit the lights. Eating a small snack before bed may be helpful for many, especially if you are a high-stress individual.
5. It May Enhance Digestive Health
Because dark chocolate is full of serotonin, it may even be beneficial to the gut. That is partially because the gut microbiome houses trillions and trillions of bacteria, and 90 percent of serotonin is made in the gut. That’s right, serotonin is not just a hormone that improves brain health, it’s also deeply connected to digestive health (5).
The gut-brain barrier shares a connection that affects our health on a biological level. Plus, there is new research that shows beneficial bacteria at the end of the digestive tract naturally ferment the antioxidants and fiber in dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is known as a functional food because of how helpful it can be. It can even improve carbohydrate absorption in the gut.
Even more, it can improve the overall healthy gut bacteria population in the gut by minimizing the appearance of harmful bacteria strains (6).
6. It May Improve Heart Health
Dark chocolate may be a game-changing snack when it comes to improving cardiovascular health. CVD or cardiovascular disease is the number one chronic disease in the United States. While many factors go into this complex disease, who knew dark chocolate could be so helpful?
The health benefits of dark chocolate run throughout the whole body, and lucky for us, the heart may be another positive beneficiary.
In one study, when almonds, dark chocolate, and cocoa were a part of a healthy diet, they could actually reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (6). Dark chocolate could even have positive effects on improving lipid levels, which in turn, improves heart functioning. It could even lower LDL cholesterol levels in a short time. Don’t forget to grab some dark chocolate to reap the potential heart benefits. You may not even need too much to help out.
7. It May Reduce the Risk of Some Cancers
Reducing the risk of cancer is a controversial subject, and to say that dark chocolate can do that alone would need much more evidence. But, there is some research available that points to the fact that some cancers may see positive improvements when incorporating more dark chocolate.
Studies in rats showed that there was some tumor inhibition in pancreatic and thyroid cancer when cocoa interventions were tested (6).
Dark chocolate may even have some cancer-protective properties, according to one study by the National Institutes of Health (7). While more studies are necessary, there may be some positive correlation between cancer risk and dark chocolate consumption.
8. It May Speed Up Your Metabolism
Since dark chocolate is a gut-friendly, functional food, it may also have a beneficial impact on how fast your metabolism runs. A fast metabolism helps with maintaining a healthy weight and preventing many common chronic diseases.
One study shows that even just consuming 40 mg of dark chocolate per day (about three squares) can significantly increase beneficial gut flora and enhance your metabolism (8). And, since it could improve gut flora, it also may have a positive effect on your digestion. There’s no harm in adding a few squares of dark chocolate to your routine.
9. It May Reduce the Risk of Insulin Resistance
Dark chocolate may even provide benefits to those who have type 2 diabetes, and in preventing gestational diabetes in pregnant women. One study shows that several Japanese women had a lower risk of developing gestational diabetes when they ate more dark chocolate (6).
The cocoa flavonoids in dark chocolate may improve insulin sensitivity by regulating protein synthesis in the body. More research is necessary to support these claims. But, several studies point to the fact that there may be some hope for dark chocolate after all. It is important to keep in mind that with preventing insulin resistance, following a healthy diet and lifestyle are the most essential factors. But, dark chocolate could be a part of that healthy diet, according to some research.
Dark chocolate may pack in a whole lot of punch when it comes to improving your health. From improving the gut microbiome to vision and heart health, dark chocolate deserves a spot at the table. Instead of reaching for refined sugary treats, try some dark chocolate to curb your sweet tooth. See if you notice any of the many benefits.
Don’t feel guilty the next time you want to indulge in general. But, when it comes to a few squares of dark chocolate a day, you may be doing your body a favor. If you have any aversions to dairy or harmful additives, be sure to pick a bar of dark chocolate that is free from extra ingredients. Always go for the darkest you can handle for the most health benefits.
Adding more healthy squares of dark chocolate to your diet could be more beneficial than you think. Remember, if it is over 50 percent dark, you can still get some health perks from it.