Chocolate is the favorite food of many people around the world. Whether you need a snack or a pick-me-up, chocolate always seems to hit the spot. It is also one of the most popular gifts to give and receive. However, there have been many discussions regarding the healthiness of chocolate. Some reports have linked chocolate to weight gain, heart disease, and diabetes. But is it the case? Does chocolate have any health benefits? Some reports say yes, and we’ve listed six of them for you.
1. Chocolate Contains Nutrients
While most people think of chocolate as “junk food,” it contains several vital nutrients. A 100-gram serving of dark chocolate provides 11 grams of fiber, nearly half the recommended daily intake. It also contains iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, and a small amount of calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium.
Most of these nutrients are in the form of minerals, which are essential for many bodily functions. Additionally, high-quality organic dark chocolate contains a decent amount of protein and other compounds linked to health benefits. These include flavonoids, polyphenols, and cacao nibs.
White and milk chocolate do not contain as many nutrients as dark chocolate because they are made with milk and sugar. However, they still contain essential nutrients, including calcium, phosphorus, and selenium. The key to getting the nutrients in chocolate is choosing a high-quality product containing at least 70% cacao.
2. Chocolate May Improve Heart Health
One of chocolate’s most well-known potential health benefits is its effect on heart health. Research has shown that chocolate may help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke. In one study, participants who ate high-flavanol chocolate significantly decreased blood pressure. Flavonoids are plant-based compounds that have been linked to a variety of health benefits, including heart health.
The effect of chocolate on heart health may also be because it contains antioxidants, which protect the body against damage from free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause cell damage, leading to inflammation. Inflammation is a significant risk factor for heart disease.
Although no evidence suggests that chocolate can directly prevent heart disease, some studies claim it may help reduce the risk factors.
3. Improve Brain Function
Do you experience the calmness that comes after eating a chocolate bar? That’s because chocolate may help improve brain function. One study showed that cocoa flavanols could improve blood flow to the brain and enhance cognitive function in older adults. Cocoa flavanols are plant-based compounds that are found in cocoa beans. They have been linked to various health benefits, including improved brain function.
The study found that those who consumed high levels of cocoa flavanols had better blood flow to the brain and performed better on tests of mental function than those who consumed low levels.
Chocolate also contains caffeine, which has been shown to improve focus and alertness. However, the amount of caffeine in chocolate is relatively tiny. A 100-gram serving of dark chocolate contains about 12 milligrams of caffeine, while a cup of coffee contains about 95 milligrams.
4. May Help Lower the Risk of Stroke
Stroke is the third leading cause of death worldwide; a significant risk factor is high blood pressure. Chocolate may help lower blood pressure and, as a result, lower the risk of stroke.
According to one study, people who ate high-flavanol chocolate significantly decreased blood pressure. The study found that the participants who ate the most cocoa flavanols had the most significant decrease in blood pressure.
Additionally, chocolate contains antioxidants that protect the body against damage from free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause cell damage, leading to inflammation. Inflammation is a significant risk factor for stroke.
Antioxidants in chocolate may also help lower the risk of ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke. Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain.
5. Chocolate May Help Protect the Skin Against Sun Damage
The skin is the largest organ in the body and one of the most exposed. As a result, it’s susceptible to damage from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Chocolate may help protect the skin against sun damage. Chocolate consumption has been linked to a decreased risk of skin cancer.
Chocolate may also help protect the skin against sun damage. One study found that people who consumed high levels of flavanol-rich cocoa had significantly higher levels of protection against ultraviolet (UV) light. The study found that the participants who ate the most cocoa flavanols had the highest protection against UV light.
Chocolate may also help improve the appearance of the skin. One study found that cocoa flavanols could improve blood flow to the skin and increase skin density and hydration. This could result in a more youthful appearance. Additionally, chocolate may help protect the skin against damage from free radicals.
6. May Help Prevent Diabetes
Diabetes is a chronic disease when the body can’t properly regulate blood sugar levels. Chocolate may help prevent diabetes. The flavonoids in dark chocolate effectively reduce insulin resistance which is a crucial factor in developing type 2 diabetes.
It also helps improve metabolism and keeps blood sugar levels in check. A 100-gram serving of dark chocolate has been shown to improve metabolism by 5 percent and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 21 percent.
In addition, chocolate may help lower blood sugar levels. This is attributed to chocolate containing flavonoids and magnesium, which have been shown to lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity.
Chocolate is a delicious treat that can be enjoyed in moderation. It also contains antioxidants and other nutrients that may offer health benefits. Chocolate may improve brain function, lower the risk of stroke, protect skin against sun damage, and reduce the risk of heart disease. However, more research is needed to confirm these health benefits. Make sure to do some research when buying chocolate, as many brands add a lot of sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. Choose chocolate with a high percentage of cacao for the most health benefits. Enjoy chocolate in moderation and pair it with other healthy foods to optimize its health benefits.