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Does Chocolate Really Have Health Benefits?

Updated on January 26, 2018
Natalie Cookson profile image

Natalie likes to research natural remedies and ways to boost health through nutrition.

Different types of chocolate
Different types of chocolate | Source

Can Chocolate Really Be Healthy?

Chocolate is often seen as an indulgent treat or an unhealthy food, but research has shown that there may be health benefits to eating some types of chocolate. The benefits found relate to dark chocolate, with the recommendation being that it should contain at least 70% cocoa. Here are some of the possible health benefits that have been associated with the consumption of dark chocolate.

Cardiovascular Health

It is thought that chocolate may be beneficial for the heart and circulation as it can help to restore flexibility to the arteries and prevent them from becoming clogged. Various studies have found that consumption of dark chocolate can help to lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes. It is the antioxidants in chocolate that are believed to be the reason for these benefits. Large scale studies from Sweden and Germany have both reported benefits for cardiovascular health.

Brain Boosting Power

The flavanols in cocoa may help to increase blood flow to parts of the brain for a couple of hours, which can improve performance and alertness during that time. Research from the UK and Norway has also looked at the long term effects, and found that people over 70 who had consumed food rich in flavanols, including chocolate, scored higher in cognitive tests than those who had not.

Weight loss

It may be hard to believe, but chocolate has actually been reported to be beneficial for weight loss. Research carried out by the University of Copenhagen found that dark chocolate can reduce the craving for sweet or fatty foods due to being more filling than other types of chocolate. It has been suggested that eating a small amount of dark chocolate after a meal could help to reduce snacking.

Mineral Content

Chocolate contains various beneficial minerals, such as iron, magnesium, manganese and zinc. These minerals perform various functions, including forming healthy blood cells and maintaining bone health.

Cough Relief

A study from London's Imperial College has found that chocolate may be one of the best things for cough relief, claiming that an alkaloid found in cocoa works better than codeine, a common ingredient in cough medicine. It is thought that it can relieve inflammation and irritation, and form a protective coating in the throat.

Cocoa beans
Cocoa beans | Source

The Cons

Although the above is great news for chocolate lovers, there are disadvantages to eating chocolate. As well as containing various beneficial minerals and antioxidants, it is also high in fat and sugar. For this reason, consumption should be limited. Some of the studies that found the potential benefits were based on people who ate small amounts of dark chocolate regularly, not ones who over indulged.

It should also be remembered that the benefits found relate to dark chocolate with a cocoa content of at least 70%. Much of the mass produced chocolate found on supermarket shelves will not offer the same benefits.

Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate | Source

Conclusion

Numerous studies have found that there can be health benefits to eating dark chocolate. The beneficial ingredients come from the cocoa, so the higher the cocoa content the greater the benefit. Minimally processed chocolate with a high cocoa content would be the best choice, with raw chocolate claimed by some to be the healthiest option. However, raw chocolate is high in caffeine, which can make it addictive and some have suggested that it may even be toxic.

There are many benefits offered by dark chocolate, but there needs to be caution as the fat and sugar content still needs to be considered when consuming it. Even the types touted as 'healthy' chocolate can have disadvantages. Like many things, it is best enjoyed in moderation. For chocolate lovers, it may be nice to know there could be some good in their favourite treat!


This article is not intended as medical advice and is for information only.

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