Kept in the Dark: The Health Benefits of Chocolate

Dr. Christopher McGowan
diciembre 13, 2021

If your doctor were to put you on a diet to ward off high blood pressure, you may expect a life of broccoli and kale smoothies is heading your way. If that is the case, you may be relieved to learn that chocolate, and dark chocolate in particular, may still be on the list of foods you can eat. 

Made from the cacao tree, cocoa solids such as cocoa butter and cocoa powder are the basis of the full range of chocolate treats we know and love. Though not commonly regarded as healthy, chocolate by itself does have some health benefits. Most candies, sweets, and other foods we eat that contain chocolate also have large amounts of sugar, milk, and other ingredients that outweigh the potential benefits this healthy plant-based product can provide. 

Is Dark Chocolate Good for Your Health?

We usually associate chocolate with unhealthy eating, but the cocoa solids found in dark chocolate are actually surprisingly healthy. Helping your body fight off the oxidative damage caused by free-radicals, dark chocolate is a natural anti-inflammatory food that can help with everything from improving brain function to helping lower your levels of LDL or bad cholesterol.

It should be noted that the health benefits of dark chocolate do not extend to milk chocolate or white chocolate. While most chocolate products contain milk, sugar, and cocoa butter, dark chocolate has a higher cocoa content, which helps the benefits outweigh the downsides brought about by the sugars and fillers added to much of the chocolate we consume as candy. Though good dark chocolate can be harder to find than milk chocolate, it is worth the effort to find a quality dark chocolate bar if you are looking to keep your sweet tooth happy and your body healthy. 

The list of nutrients you get by eating chocolate is not as long as some other foods, but it does contain some important minerals that provide positive effects for heart health, cognitive function, and more. A short list of the minerals found in cocoa solids include: 

  • magnesium
  • potassium
  • nitric oxide
  • phosphorus
  • manganese

How Much Dark Chocolate Should I Eat a Day?

With nearly all foods, you can ruin any potential health benefit by overdoing it. This is certainly the case with eating chocolate. A single 100 gram chocolate bar may contain as much as 600 calories, so knocking one down daily is not a good idea. Keeping your chocolate consumption to less than 25 grams a day is likely a good rule of thumb, though how much chocolate is good for you will depend on the cocoa content of the chocolate you are eating. 

Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

In the world of food, things that can appear very different on the surface often have a lot in common that you can’t see. You might not think that cabbage and dark chocolate would be able to offer related nutritional benefits, but it turns out they share a class of chemicals called flavonoids. 

Flavonoids, a type of polyphenol, are responsible for the powerful antioxidant benefits claimed by dark colored fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, red cabbage, cranberries, and cocoa beans that chocolate is made from. Thanks in large part to the presence of these flavonoids and flavanols, eating dark chocolate is linked to lowered risk of cardiovascular disease. This includes healthier blood vessels, improvements in blood flow, and lowered risk of heart attacks. 

Managing cholesterol is one area where adding chocolate to your diet can be particularly beneficial. Though your overall intake of various fats, proteins, and sources of dietary cholesterol will affect levels of HDL and LDL cholesterol in your blood, eating certain foods, including dark chocolate, can help manage otherwise dangerous levels of LDL or bad cholesterol. This can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks by preventing plaque from building up in your blood vessels.

Improving the functions of your circulatory system is only one of the benefits of consuming chocolate. Research suggests that regular consumption of antioxidant-rich foods, including dark chocolate, can have profound impacts on your cognitive functioning as you age. While diseases like Alzheimer’s or dementia do not have a single, silver bullet cure, maintaining a diet full of foods containing flavonoids offers positive effects for your brain health. While Alzheimer’s can’t yet be prevented or stopped completely once it has started, delaying cognitive decline is still valuable. 

Dark Chocolate and Weight Loss

It may sound counter-intuitive to think of chocolate and weight loss in the same sentence, but it turns out a small amount of dark chocolate can provide health benefits that can help support overall weight loss goals. While you will not be doing yourself any favors snacking on milk chocolate candy throughout the day, a small amount of dark chocolate can help lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol, and help to lower your risk of heart disease. Chocolate consumption has also been linked to possible improvements in insulin resistance, which is related to how the body processes and stores fat. 

No, you cannot snack yourself thin on dark chocolate, but the effort to lose weight is not about simply watching the number on the scale go down. Lowering your risk factors for other conditions associated with weight gain is important for your long-term health and wellness. The fight against unwanted weight gain is a long one, and preserving cardiovascular function can help you stay active and able to keep losing weight through exercise. 

Nutrition is only part of the game when it comes to weight loss. Many factors including exercise and lifestyle choices such as stress levels and sleep habits can affect how your body stores fat. For some people, dietary changes and exercise alone may not produce the effects you are after. In these cases, there are many other options available, though that in and of itself can bring up a host of new questions. 

There have never been more choices in products and procedures to help you lose weight. This is great news for people who are finding it hard to keep the pounds off, but it can be confusing as well. Finding a trusted source of information and a guiding hand through your weight loss journey is not easy. At True You Weight Loss, we work hard to find the best possible treatment that will match your goals, your body, and your lifestyle. 

For some people, it can mean minimally invasive and reversible procedures such as gastric balloons. Sometimes a procedure like endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty is the answer. There are even times when previous attempts at losing weight can leave you in need of a bariatric revision following to regain the benefits promised by a gastric bypass. 

No matter what the answer is for you, it is important to have the right people helping you make the important decisions necessary to find the freedom you are seeking from excess body weight. If you are ready to take the next step in finding that freedom, solicitar una consulta with True You Weight Loss today. 

Dr. Christopher McGowan
Dr. Christopher McGowan
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