The health benefits of dark chocolate

By Nourished Routes on 11th Feb 2021

Written by Elizabeth White of Nourished Routes.

Dark chocolate has made headlines in the past for its health benefits. And while sensationalized news segments may exaggerate the benefits of eating dark chocolate, there is some truth to the claims that dark chocolate can be good for your health! So what’s the scoop on dark chocolate? Let’s explore some of the goodness of chocolate.

Heart Health
A study published examining the relationships between 20,951 food frequency questionnaires performed by both men and women found that those who regularly consumed chocolate were less likely to develop coronary artery disease or suffer a stroke compared to those who did not eat chocolate. Other studies have found that cocoa may help reduce bad LDL cholesterol and raise good HDL cholesterol, while also reducing the overall risk for cardiovascular disease and heart failure.

Cognitive Function
A study performed in 2015 examined 90 randomly assigned elderly subjects who drank a low-, medium-, or high-cocoa flavanol drink daily for 8 weeks. Those who drank the medium and high-cocoa flavanol drink showed significant improvements in cognitive function. The researchers concluded that cocoa flavanols may reduce cognitive dysfunction to some degree when consumed regularly.

Another study compared subjects who consumed 100g/day of flavanol-rich dark chocolate to subjects who consumed 100g/day of flavanol-free white chocolate. It found that those who consumed dark chocolate had improved insulin sensitivity, blood flow, and lower blood pressure. These findings are supported by similar studies that have found the same results.

Nutrients in Dark Chocolate
Compared to milk, white, and other forms of chocolate, one ounce of 60% to 70% pure dark chocolate is a good source of manganese and copper. It also contains 12% DV of magnesium and 10% DV of iron. It’s also a source of potassium, zinc, phosphorus, and selenium.

A free pass to eat up?
While the flavanols in cocoa seem to have positive health benefits, some discretion is advised. Milk chocolate, which is the most highly consumed type of chocolate in the United States, has fewer beneficial flavonols than dark chocolate. White chocolate, which is not chocolate but cocoa butter, has no flavanols at all – meaning it does not have the same positive effects. Dark chocolate that is 60% or higher pure cocoa will have the most flavanols and thus, the most benefits. However, the darker the chocolate the more bitter the taste, which explains why fewer people prefer dark chocolate to milk. It is also important to note that all chocolate is a relatively high source of calories, fat, and sugar.

Dark chocolate can be part of a balanced diet. Be sure to consume no more than 1-2 ounces per day of 60% or higher pure dark chocolate to keep your overall calories and fat intake balanced with the rest of your diet.

Nourished Routes is a nutrition consulting company located in Nashville, TN. They help their clients implement a highly personalized whole foods nutrition approach so that they can enjoy food again and achieve a sense of empowerment and food freedom while feeling nourished and ultimately live their best lives.

Schedule your FREE kick-off call with one of their registered dietitians here.

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