Quality chocolate is not only exquisite tasting, but also extremely healthy. Eating chocolate has been scientifically proven to ease depression, improve brain function and disposition, support intellectual effort, cut cravings, regulate transit, support heart health, reduce stress and inflammation in the body and protect against oxidative stress. It has been theorized that eating chocolate instead of other sweets can contribute to increased lifespan and other major benefits, provided of course the chocolate is high quality.
What is chocolate? Chocolate is a confectionery made from cocoa beans (Theobroma cacao), more exactly from cocoa solids, cocoa butter, sugar, to which other ingredients like milk, fruit, honey or nuts may be added for more variety and flavor. Cocoa beans (or seeds) are extracted from the yellow and orange-colored cocoa pods and the cocoa butter from the beans. The beans are fermented, dried and roasted to develop the unique flavor that makes chocolate what it is. Not all chocolate is the same and the more cocoa solids in your chocolate, the healthier it is.
Is chocolate good for you? If it’s rich in cocoa solids and low in sugar, then yes, it’s good for you. On average, chocolate with a minimum of 50 to 55% cocoa solids can be considered healthy. Over 75% is best. Any additional ingredients can add to its benefits (think almonds, walnuts, berries) or take away from them. So if you are looking for a chocolate that both tastes wonderfully and is good for you, then you have to choose it based on its ingredients list too. This being said, here are 10 amazing health benefits of eating chocolate:
1) Improves mood and reduces stress. Chocolate is a source of important amino acids such as tyrosine and tryptophan, but also the neurotransmitter serotonin, all of which are directly involved in cell signaling between neurons, contributing to better mood and reduced stress. Moreover, eating chocolate stimulates the release of endorphins, peptide hormones which improve mood and stress-coping abilities as well as have an analgesic effect, increasing pain tolerance.
2) Good for depression. Research shows eating chocolate causes the release of endorphins, improving disposition and potentially helping with depression. Other elements in chocolate are precursors to important neurotransmitters in the brain, further regulating mood and appetite. Also, chocolate is an excellent source of magnesium, a dietary mineral with a powerful effect on brain and nervous system health, with proven anti-anxiety benefits and anti-depression action (read the truth about magnesium).
3) Benefits on memory and learning. Chocolate increases blood flow to the brain, stimulating cognitive functions like memory, focus and learning. Studies show antioxidants in cocoa and chocolate cross the blood-brain barrier and reach neurons, exerting a protective action that supports brain and nervous system health. Moreover, it has been theorized that eating chocolate regularly can efficiently delay cognitive decline and improve cognitive functions in the elderly as a result of its high content of antioxidant flavonoid antioxidants like epicatechin, but also caffeine. Studies show caffeine can potentially protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson disease.
4) Great for brain fog, stimulates alertness. Chocolate improves blood flow to the brain and regulates the activity of several neurotransmitters and hormones with a significant impact on attention, concentration and alertness. This may have potential benefits for brain fog. More important, it is a source of caffeine and helps improve coordination, focus and attention, stimulating alertness and supporting performance.
5) Antibacterial like manuka honey. Cocoa, chocolate with a high cocoa content, coffee and manuka honey all contain varying levels of methylglyoxal. While it is also an inflammatory compound with toxic effects for cells, methylglyoxal is an antibacterial, responsible for the famous bactericidal properties of manuka honey. In chocolate, it is obtained after roasting the cocoa beans and is responsible for its antimicrobial properties.
A high-quality, dark chocolate made almost entirely from cocoa (no sugar) is said to contain as much methylglyoxal as manuka honey UMF5+ (read more about Manuka honey UMF, MGO, KFactor). Some people also use cocoa or dark chocolate (99% cocoa) for clear skin, to prevent acne and nourish and moisturize the skin.
6) Rich in antioxidants. Chocolate is an important source of antioxidants and contains generous amounts of flavonoids with excellent neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties. Antioxidants protect cells throughout the body from oxidative stress, preventing the accumulation of damage that could lead to inflammation and disease. Studies show the antioxidants in chocolate protect nerve cells from oxidation and damage, delaying cognitive decline. They also confer anti-aging benefits in the form of better-looking, more youthful skin and delayed wrinkle onset.
7) Satiating, reduces cravings. Chocolate is a source of carbohydrates, dietary fiber and fats and can be very satiating on its own. It regulates blood sugar levels and provides food for the brain (fats, B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron), maintaining an adequate level of nutrition and stopping cravings. Research shows several elements in chocolate act directly on the brain, regulating appetite and cravings.
8) Regulates transit and relieves constipation. Chocolate contains small amounts of dietary fiber and cocoa butter extracted from the cocoa beans. Cocoa butter is a fat and contains both unsaturated and saturated fats, both of which are essential for normal transit. Eating chocolate rich in cocoa regulates intestinal transit time and helps relieve constipation.
9) Boosts energy levels. The nutritional values for high-cocoa chocolate reveal it contains good amounts of healthy fats, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamin E and B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, selenium, iron and other elements with nutritional value that provide good energy levels without causing spikes in blood sugar levels. Moreover, chocolate is a source of caffeine which stimulates the central nervous system, increasing alertness and performance and reducing tiredness. However, eating too much chocolate can cause side effects such a palpitations, extrasystoles, insomnia or increase anxiety in those sensitive to caffeine.
10) Good for your heart. Chocolate has a wonderful beneficial effect on blood circulation. The antioxidant flavanols and other biologically active elements in chocolate have been shown to encourage vasodilation, encouraging blood vessels to widen and allow potential clots to pass through without incidents. This contributes to reduced stroke risks. Moreover, eating chocolate has been shown to lower arrhythmia risks and prevent high cholesterol levels.
Conclusion. Eating chocolate has a variety of healthy effects on the brain and nervous system in particular, promoting better mood, reducing stress and increasing alertness and performance. Moreover, research reveals a reduced incidence of cardiovascular events, potential benefits for depression, fatigue and skin health. At the same time it is important to remember that not all chocolate is the same and if you are looking to obtain these 10 wonderful health benefits of eating chocolate, then you should choose one rich in cocoa.