Chocolate is a treat that many of us enjoy, but did you know it may also have some health benefits?
Depending on the type and amount of chocolate you eat, it can have both positive and negative effects on your health.
I’m all about eating food that is good for your body, but I’m as much a chocolate lover as the next person. That’s why I want to dive deeper into the pros and cons of adding chocolate to your diet so you can make an informed decision about how much you should be eating.
With a little bit of knowledge and self-control, you can make sure that your favorite chocolate recipes are both delicious and healthy.
Now let’s take a look at the top 5 health benefits of chocolate:
1. High in Antioxidants
Dark chocolate contains high amounts of polyphenols, which are plant-based antioxidants that protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that can cause oxidative stress in the body and can be damaging to cells over time.
Studies have found that eating dark chocolate helps reduce lipid oxidation (the process by which fats are broken down) and increases overall antioxidant levels in the body. This means that dark chocolate can help protect your body from oxidative stress, reducing the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.
If you’re looking for a healthy way to incorporate dark chocolate into your diet, this Vegan Dark Chocolate Truffle recipe is to die for!
2. Boosts Mood and Cognitive Function
Dark chocolate has also been linked to improved mental performance — particularly with regard to mood and cognitive function.
Studies have shown that regular consumption of dark chocolate may reduce levels of stress hormones like cortisol while helping improve focus, memory, problem-solving skills, and reaction times. Its high content of serotonin precursors (tryptophan) may also help boost mood naturally.
If you’re looking for a delicious chocolatey treat, try my Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies.
3. Chocolate Can Improve Insulin Sensitivity
Dark chocolate contains polyphenols which have been said to help regulate insulin levels. That’s why eating small amounts of dark chocolate has been linked to improved insulin sensitivity.
And since it helps control blood sugar, it may minimize the risk factors for diabetes or metabolic syndrome-related illnesses such as obesity or cardiovascular disease.
4. Real Chocolate Is High in Magnesium
Magnesium helps regulate more than 300 biochemical reactions in our bodies, making it an essential mineral for overall health and wellness.
Dark chocolate is a surprisingly good source of magnesium, providing 24% of your daily needs in just one ounce! That’s why it’s a great way to get your daily dose if you don’t particularly want to take a supplement.
An even better reason to go make some Flourless Black Bean Brownies.
5. Improves Heart Health
Dark chocolate has been found to improve heart health in several ways, including lowering blood pressure and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Studies have shown that eating small amounts of dark chocolate on a regular basis can reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease by up to 20%.
Eating dark chocolate may also help improve blood flow throughout the body and reduce inflammation in the arteries, further improving heart health.
Now that we’ve taken a look at some of the health benefits, here are 5 drawbacks of eating chocolate:
1. Not all chocolate is created equal
When we talk about healthy chocolate consumption, we usually mean dark chocolate. Milk chocolate contains higher amounts of sugar and saturated fat than dark varieties so it should be eaten in moderation.
And white chocolate, which doesn’t even contain cocoa particles, is considered to be the unhealthiest form of chocolate, with even more sugar and calories than milk chocolate.
Furthermore, in 2023 Consumer Reports found dangerous heavy metals in chocolate from Hershey’s, Theo, Trader Joe’s, and other popular brands.
According to the study: “For 23 of the bars, eating just an ounce a day would put an adult over a level that public health authorities and CR’s experts say may be harmful for at least one of those heavy metals. Five of the bars were above those levels for both cadmium and lead. Read more about how Consumer Reports tested dark chocolate (PDF).“
2. Chocolate Can Increase Weight Gain
Unfortunately, all chocolate, regardless of its type, can easily lead to weight gain if eaten in large quantities.
Chocolate is quite high in calories, so even if you do consume dark chocolate, which should be the healthier alternative, you still need to pace yourself and control your intake if you don’t want to gain weight.
3. May cause digestive issues
Eating large amounts of chocolate, especially milk chocolate, can potentially cause digestive issues such as nausea, cramping, and diarrhea due to its high levels of caffeine and theobromine.
Since most chocolate bars contain high levels of fat, sugar, and lactose, which all cause bloating, I recommend being very careful with your intake, particularly if you have a sensitive gut or suffer from IBS.
4. Too Much May lead to hypertension
If you suffer from high blood pressure, excessive intake of dark chocolate may lead to irregular heartbeat or hypertension due to its caffeine content.
Although this would only happen if you consume a very large amount, I would still be careful and eat it moderately.
The bottom line? Overall, adding a small amount of high-quality chocolate to your diet can offer some health benefits, but keep in mind that it should only be consumed in moderation.
Eating too much chocolate can lead to an increased risk of health problems, so make sure you keep your portions reasonable and limit the amount of chocolate you eat.
To maximize the potential health benefits, opt for dark varieties with high cocoa content. With that being said, feel free to enjoy a piece of dark chocolate as part of your next snack. Just remember to practice moderation and be aware of your portion sizes!