It’s important to realize that not all chocolate is created equal, not even close. The potential health benefits of processed, highly sweetened chocolate are slim to none, but the health benefits of dark chocolate are numerous and quite impressive.
One of the benefits of dark chocolate is its free radical fighting ability. One of dark chocolate’s most impressive attributes is its high antioxidant content. Two groups of antioxidants prevalent in dark chocolate are flavonoids and polyphenols. Dark chocolate’s cocoa has actually been shown to have the highest content of polyphenols and flavonoids, even greater than wine and tea.
Dark chocolate flavanols can also help make blood platelets less sticky and able to clot, which reduces the risk of blood clots and stroke. The results showed that flavonoid-rich dark chocolate intake significantly improved heart circulation in healthy adults.
The cocoa butter found in dark chocolate contains equal amounts of oleic acid (a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat found in olive oil), stearic and palmitic acids. Palmitic acid in dark chocolate can increase cholesterol levels, but thankfully it only makes up about a small portion of the fat in dark chocolate—plus dark chocolate has a lot of great plant nutrients that make up for palmitic acid.
Previous research showed that “acute as well as chronic ingestion of flavanol-rich cocoa is associated with increased blood flow to cerebral gray matter and it has been suggested that cocoa flavanols may be beneficial in conditions with reduced cerebral blood flow, including dementia and stroke.”
The researchers found that not only did dark chocolate lowers the blood pressure of the hypertensive diabetics, but it also decreased fasting blood sugar.
The dark chocolates, cocoa powder and cocoa beverage in the study all contained natural or non-alkalized cocoa. This is important to note since the alkalinization of cocoa has been shown to destroy healthy polyphenolic compounds. It was also revealed that dark chocolate’s antioxidant capacity was higher than all of the super fruit juices except pomegranate.
Researchers found the contrast sensitivity and visual acuity were higher two hours after eating dark chocolate bar compared to eating milk chocolate. The study, however, concludes the duration of these effects and their real-world implications require further testing.
Another benefit of dark chocolate is its potential as a cancer-fighting food. A recent review of studies on the cancer protective properties of cocoa concluded that the evidence is limited but suggestive.
Dark chocolate is good for you as long as you choose the right product. Dark chocolate has been shown to improve so many common and chronic health problems. With all of its natural and health-promoting components, dark chocolate is an antioxidant powerhouse and a superfood that’s truly a joy to eat. It’s been shown to boost heart and brain health, along with fight disease—just some of the many benefits of dark chocolate.