Chocolate is delicious, but is it good for you?

Chocolate

Chocolate has been highly prized for thousands of years, from the time of the Mayans and Aztecs.1 In fact, the scientific name for the Theobroma cacao tree – whose seeds are made into chocolate –is Greek for “food of the gods.”

Today, chocolate is commonly seen as a sign of love and affection. But chocolate isn't just for special occasions like Valentine’s Day and instead is enjoyed year-round.

According to resources such as Harvard.edu and the Cochrane Library of scientific research, some beliefs about chocolate’s health benefits are actually true. But before you rush to the store, there are some limitations you should know about concerning chocolate.

Don’t be afraid of the dark

Chocolate made from the seeds of the cacao tree contains flavonoids, a special type of antioxidant. They appear to have a healthy effect on blood pressure and blood vessels, and dark chocolate is loaded with them, much more so than milk chocolate or white chocolate.3 To get the most flavonoids, look for dark chocolate that is at least 70% cocoa or more.6

Health benefits

Research has shown that consuming moderate amounts of chocolate was associated with significantly lower risk of being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation — a common and dangerous type of irregular heartbeat.4

Also, according to research published by the National Institutes of Health, dark chocolate can put you in a better mood. It works by increasing your serotonin levels – a chemical in your brain that helps your moods – and makes you feel good.5 There is even some research showing chocolate may improve brain function.[6] However, more research is needed to learn just how much dark chocolate you should eat for health benefits.

The reality is that ingredients in dark chocolate can be healthy, but the high-calorie chocolate bars that contain it are also packed with sugar and fat, which can counter the benefits to some extent. The bottom line: it's OK to enjoy some chocolate. But for the health benefits, make it dark and don't eat a lot!

Sources:

1https://www.britannica.com/plant/cacao (link opens in new window)

3https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD008893.pub3/full (link opens in new window)

4https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/06/study-strengthens-case-for-heart-benefit-in-chocolate/ (link opens in new window)

5https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3575938/ (link opens in new window)

6https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/chocolate-pros-and-cons-of-this-sweet-treat (link opens in new window)