Is Dark Chocolate Good for your Health?
Chocolate often gets a bad reputation due to so many people eating way too much of it. While there are certain health benefits of dark chocolate, eating too much of a good thing is never a good idea, even when it tastes this delicious. Lovers of chocolate all rejoiced when studies started being released showing that chocolate isn’t as bad for you as previously thought. Unfortunately, not all chocolate is equal, and the bag of semi-sweet chips that you picked up to use to make cookies isn’t going to do you any favors. While reaching for dark chocolate instead of white chocolate or milk chocolate is a great first step, there are a few more things to consider before you think of dark chocolate as healthy and enjoy it without restraint.
Is Chocolate Healthy?
This question gets asked a lot by self-proclaimed “choc-o-holics”, and the answer isn’t easy – “it depends”. If you’re eating truffles each day or enjoying a whole chocolate bar each night then no, your chocolate habit isn’t healthy. In order to reap the health benefits of chocolate you have to make sure to reach for the right kind. You need to make sure to stock your cupboard with “superfood” chocolate, not highly processed chocolate products that you can pick up so cheaply at the grocery store. One kind will actually provide health benefits when you eat it, the other can work against you and derail all of your hard work. Make sure to pick the right kind to keep your treats as healthy as possible if you’re going to enjoy this delicious food on a regular basis.
What is Dark Chocolate?
While there is no FDA approved standard for what actually qualifies as dark chocolate versus milk chocolate, most people agree that it has over 70% pure cacoa or cacoa solids. While some people will package chocolate that contains 60% cocoa as dark chocolate, the higher the percentage, the more health benefits that you will enjoy when eating this delicious food. The higher cocoa content means that dark chocolate has a much richer and deeper flavor than you will get when you get milk chocolate. This can lead to the chocolate being bitter, which inspires a number of chocolatiers to add milk and sugar to offset the bitter flavor. The problem with that is that those additions will decrease the health benefits of this food.
Benefits of Chocolate
Enjoying dark chocolate can actually have a great impact on your blood pressure. One of the benefits of chocolate is that it contains cocoa phenols that will lower your blood pressure. In studies where the participants were given dark chocolate, milk chocolate, or while chocolate to eat, the scientists discovered that those who ate the dark chocolate enjoyed more health benefits than those who ate the two other kinds.
Excitingly for people who love dark chocolate, it’s packed with antioxidants that can actually improve your health. They’re great for removing free radicals in your body that may cause heart disease and other health problems as you age. While some people prefer milk chocolate over dark, it’s important to note that milk will actually stop your body from being able to absorb all of the antioxidants found in chocolate, making it not nearly as healthy as they can’t then help rid your body of free radicals. If you’re going to eat dark chocolate and claim that it’s for health purposes, make sure to stay far away from dairy as you do so or you’ll just negate any health benefits that you’re trying to enjoy.
Help your Heart
Chocolate is packed with flavonoids. Not only are these useful in lowering blood pressure, they also have the added health benefit of improving the flow of blood to the brain as well as to the heart. The platelets that make up your blood will be less sticky due to the flavanols, which, in turn, will lower your risk of having a stroke or developing blood clots. Scientists love to perform studies, and one study showed that dark chocolate high in flavonoids improved the blood circulation in the participants who ate it. Unfortunately, white chocolate doesn’t have the same health benefit when eaten. Dark chocolate with a high cocoa content (and lower amount of sugar!), will decreased blood sugar. This could be great news for diabetics, as long as the daily amount consumed is quite small. In the study it was under an ounce a day.
As a whole, chocolate has a lot of empty calories and sugar that most people don’t need to add to their diet. While there are some amazing benefits of chocolate, it’s not a good idea to give up eating healthy food so that you can enjoy this delicious treat. Continue eating apples, kale, and other fruits and vegetables. When you pack your diet with whole grains and lean meats and healthy fats then there is some room in there for indulgence. Don’t just add chocolate to your daily diet. Make sure that if you’re going to be enjoying this sweet treat you’re replacing something that may not be as healthy, like cookies or candy. And remember, eating a whole chocolate bar is never a good idea, no matter how many antioxidants you’re trying to get into your system.
The next time you want a sweet treat, put down the ice cream carton and reach instead for some high quality, healthy dark chocolate. All of the wonderful health benefits that you’ll gain when eating this delicious treat make it worth searching for the good dark stuff. From heart benefits to better cholesterol and lower blood pressure, there are a myriad of reasons that dark chocolate is healthy and reasons why you should eat some in moderation. Remember: the chocolate made in Europe is often much healthier than what is produced in the United States. Look for something with little to no dairy and small amounts of added sugar. You can enjoy this sweet treat in moderation and reap the health benefits, but don’t overdo it by drinking hot chocolate everyday and claiming that you’re doing it for health purposes.