Chocolate no more a guilty pleasure
- Web Desk
- Aug 02, 2023
If you’ve dreamt of eating chocolate every day, now you have an excuse without the guilt.
Scientific studies have shown that dark chocolate — sorry, milk and white chocolate don’t count — is rich in antioxidants and packed with nutrients, making this bittersweet treat a superfood favorite.
Dark chocolate contains phytonutrients called flavonoids, which are plant chemicals that act as antioxidants and may play a role in cancer prevention and heart health, according to research published in 2016 in the Journal of Nutritional Science.
The cacao plant that chocolate is derived from also contains a compound called theobromine, which Toby Amidor, RD, a cookbook author and nutrition expert for Food Network, says may help reduce inflammation and potentially lower blood pressure.
“Cacao is packed with numerous antioxidants — actually more than green tea or red wine,” she says. “The darker you go, the more antioxidants you’ll get, but there needs to be a balance between eating palatable dark chocolate and getting the health benefits.”
Your best bet is choosing a bar with 70 percent cacao or higher, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; bars with lower percentages of cacao have more added sugar and unhealthy fats. And even though quality dark chocolate is a better choice than milk chocolate, it is still chocolate, meaning it’s high in calories and saturated fat. To avoid weight gain, Amidor recommends eating no more than 1 ounce (oz) of dark chocolate per day.
One of the biggest benefits that researchers tout is the role dark chocolate may play in improving heart health. A systematic review and meta-analysis published in July 2020 in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that eating chocolate once per week was associated with an 8 percent lower risk of blocked arteries.
Eating chocolate every day doesn’t sound like the best way to prevent diabetes, but studies have shown healthy amounts of dark chocolate rich in cacao could actually improve how the body metabolizes glucose when eaten as part of a healthy diet. Insulin resistance causes high blood glucose (sugar) and is the hallmark of type 2 diabetes, per an article published in March 2019 by StatPearls.
Dark chocolate is also touted as a cholesterol-lowering food, which explains why, in a study published in November 2017 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, a handful of almonds, dark chocolate, and unsweetened cocoa showed a significant drop in overweight and obese participants’ low-density lipoproteins (LDL), also known as “bad” cholesterol.
But be mindful that that chocolate also contains a good chunk of calories and fat, so be careful of your daily intake.