Why Chocolate Is Good For You
It’s sweet, creamy, and moreish: no wonder chocolate is considered a sometimes food. But just because it’s delicious doesn’t mean it’s devilish.
There’s an undeniable upside to this delightful treat that’s worth remembering when the Easter Bunny comes knocking.
Cocoa, the key ingredient in chocolate, is an antioxidant powerhouse. “Cocoa contains an abundance of flavanols, a group of antioxidants that have many benefits, such as reducing blood pressure,” explains Accredited practicing dietitian Brooke Delfino.
“Flavanols also can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by keeping arteries elastic.”
Research by Yale University in the US found that the beneficial effects of regularly eating (okay, just a little) dark chocolate likely outweigh the risks, such as the potential for weight gain.
It’s not all about heart health, either – studies have linked Cocoa to a veritable chocolate box of benefits. Here are a few to keep in mind this Easter.
IT SMOOTHS SKIN
Does chocolate fight wrinkles? Now you’re talking!
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that women who consumed flavanol-rich cocoa drinks for 24 weeks showed improvements in facial wrinkles and skin elasticity, compared with those who sipped a flavanol-free substitute.
IT BOOSTS BRAINPOWER
A review of studies by Italian researchers concluded that Cocoa could make you way smarter – it’s linked to improvements in memory, processing speed, and executive function and seems to be particularly useful in older adults.
Interestingly, eating an antioxidant-rich dark choco bar also reduced cognitive impairment induced by sleep loss in healthy women.
IT BUILDS IMMUNITY
The antioxidant action of chocolate may supercharge the immune system.
A recent study by US researchers found that eating 48 grams of dark chocolate a day for eight days led to an increase in the expression of genes involved in firing off T cells – white blood cells that help fight infection and disease – and a reduction in the genes involved in inflammation.
IT SWEETENS MOOD
It’s not just the sugar that’s making you smile. “Chocolate contains small amounts of tryptophan, an amino acid that helps produce mood-boosting hormone serotonin in the brain,” explains Brooke.
Indeed, a UK study found that people who ate dark chocolate were less likely to report depressive symptoms than those who didn’t consume any.
IT WORKS BEST IN THE DARK
Read into the research, and you’ll find a common theme: the darker the chocolate, the stronger its health powers.
“The best choice is dark chocolate with more than 70 percent cocoa mass, meaning it’s the highest in flavanols,” says Brooke.
“It has a stronger, slightly more bitter taste than your average choc treat. By contrast, regular dairy milk chocolate contains only about 20 percent cocoa mass, while white chocolate has none at all.”
If you really can’t get on board with dark choco, “Choose good-quality milk chocolate that you’ll truly savor,” she tips.
HOW MUCH TO EAT
The only downside here is that small serving is where it’s at! Because chocolate comes with a side of sugar and saturated fat, “A healthy serve is four small squares or one row,” says Brooke.
But if you can’t stop there, don’t try to deprive yourself, she adds. Instead, opt for quality over quantity and eat mindfully, so you fully enjoy the experience.
“Let yourself revel in its aroma, texture, and flavor. You’ll be surprised at just how good it tastes and by how little you need.”