Most people love to eat chocolate. Contrary to popular belief, this treat isn’t bad for you either. It just depends on what type of chocolate you are consuming.
Every bar is certainly not created equal. Some candy bars are laden with sugar, while others are merely flavored products filled with preservatives. That being said, some specific types of chocolate – especially of the dark variety – do have health benefits that are worth considering.
Chocolate originates from the cacao bean, which is filled with nutrients and antioxidants.
In Latin, the word for the cacao tree translates to “food of the gods.” Chocolate certainly tastes divine in drinks, desserts, and candies. And if the decadent taste isn’t a good enough reason to eat it every day, its health benefits are a good reason.
Here are ten benefits of eating chocolate you may not know.
Are all chocolate bars healthy?
Not all candy bars are created equal. Some are loaded with sugar and other fillers. The best choice is to eat dark chocolate with 70% cacao to guarantee you’re getting the best health benefits. Other things to look for when you’re choosing a sweet treat include the following:
- Avoid milk chocolate: Milk chocolate does not provide the same health benefits as dark varieties because it contains a lot of sugar. Read the label on the bar carefully. If it lists milk and sugar first, opt for another product instead.
- Eat a small amount: Although dark chocolate is good for you, you should eat no more than an ounce a day. This treat is high in calories, which will cause you to gain weight if you overeat. Think of it as a tiny dessert after lunch or dinner.
- Hot cocoa: Try adding powdered cocoa to skim milk for a low-fat drink. Add a little honey to sweeten it, if needed.
How is chocolate made?
Once picked from the cacao tree, the cocoa seeds or beans roast and ground into a paste, then turned into liquor. This liquor contains a large number of cocoa solids and butter. Chocolate is made by combining cocoa liquor with cocoa butter and sugar. How much cocoa liquor is used will determine how dark the chocolate will be. Milk chocolate is made with powdered or condensed milk added to the chocolate mixture. In the United States, milk chocolate contains around 10% to 12% cocoa liquid. Bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate has about 35% cocoa liquid. Both cocoa butter and cocoa solids contain fatty acids, minerals, vitamins, polyphenols, and fiber.
10 Surprising (but science-backed!) benefits of eating chocolate every day.
Do you need an incentive to indulge in this sweet treat? Scientists agree that this treat benefits your health if you enjoy it in moderation.
1. Chocolate has anti-inflammatory benefits
Cocoa has two phenolic antioxidants called flavanols and epicatechin. These two antioxidants in chocolate help fight inflammation in your body. Chronic inflammation in your body contributes to many health problems like heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, age-related macular degeneration, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. The epicatechin in cocoa is especially beneficial to fight these inflammatory types of conditions.
2. Take advantage of heart-healthy nutrition
According to one study by the National Institute of Health, regularly eating dark chocolate improves your cardiovascular health. This study revealed that eating small amounts of dark chocolate, around 20 grams a day, helped lower specific proteins that can build up in your body and cause a higher risk of heart problems such as high blood pressure.
3. Chocolate is good for your skin
The flavanols in dark chocolate have been proven to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays (UVA). Flavanols also boost the blood flow to your skin. Eating a little bit of dark chocolate each day will help your skin stay younger, looking with fewer wrinkles due to the sun’s rays. Estheticians love conducting cocoa bean skincare treatments for these three reasons:
- Providing a natural moisturizer: Cocoa beans have a lot of cocoa butter in them. Thus, cocoa butter products help keep your skin hydrated.
- Protects from damage: Chocolate not only filters UVA rays but also contains vitamins D, A, E, C, and B1.
- Reduces skin irritation: Cocao is gentle on the skin. It can soothe irritation and even helps people with sensitive skin.
4. Improve your brain’s health
Researchers believe that eating dark chocolate could improve your brain function, especially your memory. A study found there were significant changes in an individual’s brain activity after eating dark chocolate. An MRI showed that eating a small dose of dark chocolate increased the brain’s blood flow. The results also showed that eating a tiny amount of dark chocolate could help reverse the effects of sleep deprivation and improve these individuals’ performance. What better way to help your brain than eating a little dark chocolate during your day?
5. Maintain a healthier weight
Believe it or not, eating some dark chocolate every day can help you stay slim. Every day you get bombarded with all kinds of unhealthy food choices. Keeping your weight down takes a lot of effort and self-control. Dark chocolate, eaten in small amounts, can take the edge off your desire for something sweet, especially after a meal.
You can satisfy your sweet tooth without guilt, knowing the chocolate you’re eating is healthy for you. Dark chocolate can also give you a little energy boost, which encourages you to be more active and productive.
6. Chocolate improves your mood
Studies show that there is some evidence that eating dark chocolate can reduce depression symptoms. Dark chocolate contains compounds that stimulate the release of beneficial chemicals in your brain called endorphins. Endorphins are responsible for improving your mood and making you feel happier, similar to what exercise or laughter does for your brain. It makes sense that chocolate improves your mood since it’s often the first thing you reach for when you want comfort. Fortunately, you can reach for chocolate without worry because it’s scientifically proven to boost your mood.
7. Flavanols in the cocoa bean may prevent diabetes
A 2017 study uncovered some surprising results.
Eating a bit of this treat every day will improve the way your body metabolizes glucose. This, in turn, helps maintain the right amount of insulin levels in your body, which helps prevent diabetes. The flavonoids in dark vaireties are thought to reduce oxidative stress, which affects insulin resistance. When your body is more sensitive to insulin, the resistance gets reduced, so your disease risk goes down. Eating chocolate consistently produces the best results.
8. Chocolate is good for your hair
Cocoa butter is a healthy veggie fat derived from cocoa beans. The creamy butter is made by fermenting the beans, then pressing them.
Cocoa butter is used in lotions, creams, shampoos, and conditioners. Cocoa butter is nourishing for your hair. Plus, the flavanols in the cocoa bean stimulate blood flow to the scalp. Read shampoo and conditioner labels to be sure you’re getting real cocoa butter, not an artificially made substitute.
9. Chocolate may help fight cancer
Researchers believe that cocoa bean flavonoids may guard against getting certain types of cancer. Two of the most significant flavonoids are epicatechin and quercetin. Both of these antioxidants help fight toxins and free radicals that affect your body. Researchers are still learning what amount of chocolate is needed to help prevent cancer. Hopefully, they will find ways to use chocolate to help fight cancer.
10. Boost your energy levels and fight fatigue
Regularly eating dark varieties will improve your energy levels. Cacao has properties that will enhance your blood flow to give added energy. When you have an increased blood flow, it improves the oxygen flow to your heart and muscles. Cocoa beans also contain caffeine, which can boost your energy level. The good news is that although there are caffeine and some sugar in dark chocolate, it won’t give you an energy crash like some foods do.
5 Wonderful facts about cacao
- Cacao beans were so coveted that they were a form of currency in the Mayan and Aztec societies. People even tried to cheat by making fake cacao beans out of clay.
- The Europeans have everyone beat when it comes to eating this rich treat. Countries like Germany, Ireland, and Switzerland are the biggest fans of cocoa-based products.
- When life gives you lemons, make chocolate chips. Supposedly the baking chip was an accident for a baker who was supposed to be making a special batch of cookies. When the chocolate didn’t melt, it formed little tiny bits. Viola! The famous chip was born.
- The History Channel says the first candy bar was created by a fellow named Joseph Fry. He mixed cocoa butter, cocoa powder, and sugar for his creation that is enjoyed today.
- Most of the cacao beans grown in the world come from Africa’s Ivory Coast.
Final thoughts about the healthy benefits of eating chocolate
Cocoa has so many health benefits. Eating it daily can boost your energy, protect your skin from UVA rays, give you better blood flow, protect your heart, and help your brain function better. Dark chocolate is healthier than the milk vareity since it has more anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants. Be sure to eat just a tiny amount each day since it is high in calories. Of course, eating only a small amount will also satisfy your sweet tooth, so you’ll be less prone to weight gain. All in all, chocolate is worth adding to your diet for a long list of health benefits.