Dark chocolate has a rich and delicious taste. In addition to its high nutritional value, it is a great source of antioxidants.
As per research, dark chocolate may help you lose weight. It may hinder fat digestion and absorption and make you feel fuller (1).
Dark chocolate may also promote good skin and heart health. Most of the benefits of dark chocolate come from cocoa flavanols. Flavanols are antioxidants that reduce inflammation and boost brain function. A typical cocoa solids bar contains 50-90% cocoa butter, sugar, and cocoa solids. Butter is likely to be found in it as well, though rarely.
This article discusses the benefits of dark chocolate, its nutritional profile, its potential side effects, and additional tips for choosing the best dark chocolate. Scroll down to read more.
In This Article
How Does Dark Chocolate Benefit You?
The cocoa flavanols in dark chocolate contribute to most of its benefits. These flavanols have antioxidant effects that promote heart health, help fight cancer, and boost brain function. Dark chocolate may also aid weight loss.
1. May Aid Weight Loss
Moderate intake of dark chocolate may increase satiety and may lead to weight loss.
Research suggests that dark chocolate may have a role to play in weight loss. It may decrease the expression of genes involved in fatty acid synthesis. This reduces the digestion and absorption of fats and carbs, thereby increasing satiety (1).
Consumption of dark chocolate could also be useful in the reduction of weight circumference in normal weight obese women (a condition that involves excess body fat with a normal body mass index) (2).
However, moderation is key. Just 100 grams of dark chocolate contains about 600 calories (3). Hence, do not have more than one cube of dark chocolate in a day.
2. May Protect Your Skin
The flavanols in dark chocolate can protect the skin against sun damage.
Studies show that dietary flavanols from cocoa offer photoprotection and improve dermal blood circulation (4).
This effect can be attributed to the antioxidants (especially flavanols) in dark chocolate (4).
3. May Boost Heart Health
Dark chocolate antioxidants may cut heart disease risk by preventing oxidation, lowering bad cholesterol levels, and elevating good cholesterol levels.
Habitual chocolate intake can lower the risk of coronary heart disease. Studies have suggested that dark chocolate may have more benefits than milk chocolate. One major reason for this effect could be the flavonoids in dark chocolate (5).
Some sources claim that dark chocolate may promote the production of nitric oxide, which relaxes the blood vessels and enhances blood flow. However, we need more research to establish this.
There is no evidence that those concerned with cardiovascular health must avoid dark chocolate (or chocolate, in general) (5).
Studies show that eating dark chocolate more than five times a week was associated with a 57% lower risk of coronary heart disease (6).
We know that dark chocolate is made of cocoa. As per a Japanese study, the polyphenols in cocoa powder may lower LDL (the bad cholesterol), elevate HDL (the good cholesterol), and suppress oxidized LDL (7).
It is not LDL but oxidized LDL that is a problem. The antioxidants in cocoa may prevent the LDL from getting oxidized (8).
4. May Promote Brain Function
The flavonols in dark chocolate may elevate mood and improve cognitive health in the elderly.
In a study conducted on five healthy subjects, intake of dark chocolate (with 70% cocoa content) was found to improve behavioral and brain health (9). Further research is in progress, however, to elaborate on these mechanisms.
In a second study conducted by the same team, dark chocolate was found to improve neural signaling and sensory perception (10).
Regular intake of cocoa flavanols may also be effective in improving cognitive health in the elderly with mild mental impairment (11).
Dark chocolate also promotes mood and may alleviate emotional stress. However, we need further research to understand the mechanisms involved (12).
Dark chocolate also contains a compound called epicatechin, which was found to reduce brain damage in the eventuality of a stroke (13). But not all dark chocolate is created equal. Hence, ensure you go through the list of ingredients.
5. Might Aid Cancer Prevention
Rat studies highlight a possible link between dark chocolate intake and colon cancer prevention (14). A diet including dark chocolate was found to reduce cell proliferation and inflammation.
Daily intake of small amounts of flavanols from dark chocolate and other sources may be a natural approach to potentially prevent colon cancer. However, we need more research in this regard (15).
According to the American Cancer Society, the flavanols in cocoa beans (dark chocolate) may help reduce damage to cells. But as per the report, the results don’t state if the anticancer effects could be attributed to dark chocolate, or if it’s the flavanols alone, which could be found in other foods as well (16).
Dark chocolate cocoa also contains high concentrations of catechinsi XA bioactive molecule with antioxidant properties that protect cells from damage due to free radicals (unstable atoms in the body). and procyanidinsi XA group of natural bioactive molecules found in fruits and vegetables that help protect the heart and improve vision. that may have a beneficial effect against oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, which both are risk factors for cancer (17).
6. May Aid Diabetes Treatment
Consuming dark chocolate may lower blood sugar levels, as per some studies.
It is possible that the cocoa polyphenols in dark chocolate can directly influence insulin resistance and reduce diabetes risk. They may induce the generation of pancreatic beta-cells and stimulate insulin secretion, thereby lowering blood sugar levels. More studies need to be performed to further analyze the anti-diabetic effects of dark chocolate (18).
However, reports hint that dark chocolate may have some adverse effects (although only rarely) on people who have diabetes. But this is yet to be validated by strong research.
7. May Enhance Vision
In a study, dark chocolate exhibited a better ability to improve visual acuity than its white counterpart. This effect was only temporary (for about two hours), however. The long-term effects of dark chocolate on vision health need further research (19).
8. May Promote Gut Health
The good microbes in the gut, namely Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria, ferment dark chocolate and produce anti-inflammatory compounds (20).
In another study, the consumption of foods rich in cocoa flavanols could significantly improve the growth of beneficial gut bacteria (21). Although further research is required, this is a promising finding.
9. May Improve Hair Health
Dark chocolate is rich in cocoa. This cocoa contains proanthocyanidins, compounds that were known to promote hair growth in animal studies (22).
In mice, proanthocyanidins were found to induce the anagen phase of hair growth (23). Anagen is the active growth phase of hair follicles where the hair root divides rapidly, adding to the hair shaft.
More research is warranted to understand if dark chocolate can actually have any impact on hair health.
We have seen some of the nutrients that make dark chocolate beneficial to human health. In the following section, we will further explore its nutritional profile.
What Is The Nutritional Profile Of Dark Chocolate?
|Amounts Per Selected Serving||%DV|
|From Carbohydrate||185(775 kJ)|
|From Fat||388(1624 kJ)|
|From Protein||31.5(132 kJ)|
|From Alcohol||~(0.0 kJ)|
|Amounts Per Selected Serving||%DV|
|Total Carbohydrate||46.3 g||15%|
|Dietary Fiber||11.0 g||44%|
|Fats & Fatty Acids|
|Amounts Per Selected Serving||%DV|
|Total Fat||43.1 g||66%|
|Saturated Fat||24.7 g||124%|
|Monounsaturated Fat||12.9 g|
|Polyunsaturated Fat||1.3 g|
|Total trans fatty acids||0.0 g|
|Total trans-monoenoic fatty acids||0.0 g|
|Total trans-polyenoic fatty acids||0.0 g|
|Total Omega-3 fatty acids||34.3 mg|
|Total Omega-6 fatty acids||1230 mg|
|Protein & Amino Acids|
|Amounts Per Selected Serving||%DV|
|Amounts Per Selected Serving||%DV|
|Vitamin A||39.4 IU||1%|
|Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol)||~||~|
|Vitamin K||7.4 mcg||9%|
|Vitamin B6||0.0 mg||2%|
|Vitamin B12||0.3 mcg||5%|
|Pantothenic Acid||0.4 mg||4%|
|Amounts Per Selected Serving||%DV|
*Values sourced from USDA, Chocolate, dark, 70-85% cacao solids
A bar of dark chocolate (100 grams) with 70-80% cocoa content contains about 600 calories. That is a lot, but obviously, you aren’t going to consume 100 grams of dark chocolate every day (we don’t recommend you do that either).
One ounce of dark chocolate (28 grams) contains about 3 grams of fiber, 27% DV of manganese, 25% DV of copper, 19% DV of iron, and 16% DV of magnesium.
The much-discussed goodness of dark chocolate comes from its cocoa content. Cocoa is replete with plant chemicals (called flavanols) that may protect the heart. It contains two to three times more flavanol-rich cocoa solids than its milk cousin.
The other important nutrients in dark chocolate include iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, and phosphorus – all of which contribute to your overall health (3).
As we discussed, not all dark chocolate is created equal. The market is flooded with different brands. How do you pick the best of the lot?
How To Choose The Healthiest Dark Chocolate
Not every dark chocolate is created equal. There are a few things to keep in mind before you go ahead and pick your bar of dark chocolate.
Though beneficial, dark chocolate can cause certain undesirable effects.
What Are The Side Effects Of Dark Chocolate?
Owing to the caffeine in dark chocolate (and chocolate, in general), excess intake can lead to anxiety issues (24). Hence, consume it in moderation.
- Heart Arrhythmia
Dark chocolate does have great benefits for the heart. But the caffeine it contains may cause irregular heartbeat in susceptible individuals. Some research shows a link between chocolate, caffeine, and arrhythmia (25). Hence, moderation is key.
- Pregnancy And Breastfeeding
For pregnant and breastfeeding women, dark chocolate (and other chocolate, in general) is safe in normal amounts. Don’t go overboard (due to its caffeine content) (27). Consume in moderation.
- Other Possible Issues With Caffeine
The caffeine in dark chocolate may also aggravate the following conditions (individuals with these conditions must consume dark chocolate in moderation):
- High blood pressure
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Osteoporosisi XA bone disease that causes a loss of bone density, weakening bones and increasing the risk of fractures.
However, there is less information if dark chocolate by itself may cause any of these issues. Please consult your doctor in case you have any of the health conditions.
Dark chocolate is a rich source of antioxidants. The flavonolsi XBioactive compounds found in higher concentrations in plant-based foods that help reduce the risk of several chronic diseases. and polyphenols in dark chocolate benefit your health in several ways. Consumption of dark chocolate may aid weight loss, reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes, improve brain function, and protect your skin from the sun. However, excess intake may lead to anxiety, heart arrhythmia, diarrhea, and high blood pressure. Hence, consume dark chocolate in moderation to reap all its benefits.
Frequently Asked Questions
How is dark chocolate different from milk chocolate?
While dark chocolate contains the most cocoa content, milk chocolate is primarily made of milk solids. Dark chocolate also tastes slightly bitter, as opposed to its cousin that tastes milky.
Does dark chocolate contain caffeine?
Yes. In fact, it contains more caffeine than regular milk chocolate. This is because of the high cocoa content in dark chocolate.
How much dark chocolate can you eat in a day?
You may want to stick to 1 to 2 ounces of dark chocolate per day. This can translate to 1 to 2 chocolate ‘squares’ in a dark chocolate bar.
Can you eat dark chocolate at night?
Yes, you can eat dark chocolate at night. There are no contraindications.
Is chocolate bad for the kidneys?
Chocolate usually contains potassium. If you have an advanced stage of kidney disease, check with your doctor before consuming chocolate as potassium could stress the kidneys. Otherwise, chocolate is not bad for the kidneys.
Does dark chocolate cause pimples/acne?
There is no research stating that chocolate may cause acne or pimples. A high-sugar or a high-fat diet may increase sebum production and the chances of acne. If you have acne, you may want to limit your intake of chocolate, among other foods that are high in sugar or fat.
Can dark chocolate cause weight gain?
If consumed in excess, it may add to your weight. Dark chocolate is high in calories. We suggest you stick to an ounce or less of dark chocolate a day.
Is dark chocolate good for babies?
Usually, yes, but in moderation. However, your baby may not like the bitter taste of dark chocolate.
Does dark chocolate help you sleep?
It depends on when it is consumed. There is no general consensus on dark chocolate’s impact, as it contains stimulants like theobromine and caffeine, which inhibit sleep, and a high magnesium content that may aid in promoting sleep (26).
Does dark chocolate improve eyesight?
Possibly not. According to research, there is a lack of evidence that dark chocolate may significantly improve eyesight (27).
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