Today we’re going to talk about chocolate!

Are you a chocolate lover?

For many people, chocolate is one of life’s great pleasures. And, happily, when you choose good quality dark chocolate, it also has many health benefits, so you can enjoy your chocolate treat without guilt.

Is dark chocolate really healthy?

Yes! When compared with other types of chocolate, dark chocolate stands tall. Dark chocolate has lower added sugar than milk or white chocolate, and boasts an abundance of beneficial antioxidants and other health-enhancing compounds.

At their core, milk chocolate and dark chocolate are similar, including cocoa butter, sweetener and cocoa solids, and their differences lie mostly in the quantities of those ingredients. Dark chocolate contains less sugar – as just mentioned – than milk chocolate, making it healthier.

And dark chocolate has between 50% and 100% cocoa solids, while milk chocolate has between 10% and 50% (and white chocolate has none). Cocoa solids impart most of the health-enhancing qualities of chocolate, so the higher the percentage of cocoa solids, the darker the chocolate, the more health benefits.

Some of the health benefits from dark chocolate are:

It’s rich in anti-aging flavanols

Flavanols are a type of compound found in rich supply in cacao beans and dark chocolate.

Flavanols boost the production of nitric oxide, which relaxes your blood vessels and improves blood flow throughout your body. This in turn lowers blood pressure, which is great for your heart.

Better blood flow is also great for your brain function, your energy, and your overall health.

In addition, due to their antioxidant properties, flavanols also help counteract aging by slowing the cell damage that causes aging.

And studies have also found that flavanol-rich dark chocolate can improve your insulin sensitivity. Which – as you know if you’ve been reading/listening to me – is a critical component to optimizing health, slowing aging, and reversing disease.

Dark chocolate is a good source of important minerals

Dark chocolate is also packed full of important minerals, including magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and phosphorus, which are essential components for hundreds of processes in our bodies. Getting enough of these minerals, for instance, is crucial for strong bones, as well as for optimal immunity, mood, brain function, and sleep quality.

Interesting side note: Cravings for chocolate, such as many women experience before their periods, are often caused by mineral deficiencies, especially magnesium! So that craving for chocolate can actually be a health-helper.

Protects skin from sun damage

The antioxidants in dark chocolate improve blood flow to your skin and protect it from sun damage. A small study even found that eating dark chocolate can protect your skin from the effects of UV (ultraviolet) rays.

Enhances your mood

Dark chocolate has long been associated with feelings of pleasure and enjoyment, and those feelings originate in part from compounds in chocolate called polyphenols. Polyphenols are antioxidants that lower cortisol, a stress hormone.

Chocolate also interacts with some of our neurotransmitter systems such as dopamine (chocolate contains the dopamine precursor tyrosine), serotonin and endorphins (contained in cocoa and chocolate) that contribute to appetite, reward and mood regulation.

So it’s not just your imagination – chocolate does make you happier! 😀

In fact, a study published in January 2022 found that participants who ate 85% dark chocolate daily maintained better overall mood than others who ate chocolate with less cocoa, or no chocolate at all.

Quality over quantity

As with any sweet treat, moderation is key. A little bit of dark chocolate goes a long way!

And while there are many health benefits to dark chocolate, it’s important to choose your chocolate carefully, as quality really matters.

Look for low sugar, extra dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 80-100% – or work your way up to that over time if that’s not currently your preference. And ideally, choose organic, additive-free chocolate, such as Pascha brand – check out their full list of criteria here for a complete picture of what ideal chocolate looks like.

Enjoy your chocolate!

Dark chocolate is a health-enhancing treat and a delicious way to finish off a meal. It is comforting, and mood-enhancing, and satiety-inducing: it signals your brain that you’re satisfied and finished. And you’ll need less of it to get satisfaction than you would from other sweets.

So if you love chocolate, enjoy a small amount of good-quality dark chocolate every day! No guilt needed. 😊

For more ways to enjoy your dark chocolate, check out these healthy and delicious recipes: Dr. Emily’s Chocolate Cake, Decadent Dark Chocolate Mousse, and Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars.