Oh, chocolate, why do you have such a bad rap? It seems like in nutrition we like to ban some foods completely and change our minds a couple years later and say it’s the best thing ever. Personally, I have never banned chocolate from my diet, I am way too obsessed and life is too short to not eat it! Keep in mind that this post is meant to help you understand the benefits of darker chocolates and I am in NO WAY saying milk chocolate is bad. I eat chocolate, and not only dark chocolate, ALL the time. You simply need to be mindful about eating chocolate.Over the past couple years, there have been swarms of studies published about the benefits of chocolate, especially on cardiovascular diseases. Since cardiovascular diseases are becoming an increasing problem, this is quite interesting. However, chocolate is sugary and fattening right?!? So why is it healthy?
Let’s try to figure out this chocolate dilemma.
Ever heard of those things called antioxidants? Antioxidants help lower damage to our cells caused by free radicals, which can lead to all sorts of nasty stuff; cancer being one of them. Apparently, chocolate is jammed packed with a certain antioxidant called flavonoids. A lot of evidence points towards flavonoids decreasing risks of heart disease.
There is another type of flavonoid, called flavanols, that have been shown to increase blood flow in the brain. What does that mean? If we have increased blood flow in the brain, then it can decrease the risk of eventual stroke (which is when you get blood clots that block the proper flow of blood in the brain).
On top of that, flavanols can increase the presence of nitric oxide in the blood (source). I know what you’re thinking, nitric oxide sounds like a poisonous gas right? Turns out that it’s actually crucial for our health. Nitric oxide is what allows your blood vessels to dilate and also helps in reducing blood clotting. Why is this good? If your vessels aren’t properly dilating, there are more chances that proper blood flow will be reduced. This can lead to heart attacks or stroke. On top of that, if you are at risk for a heart attack, reducing blood clotting can help prevent these attacks. Nitric oxide has a BUNCH of benefits, check out this source if you want to know more.
LET’S EAT ALL THE CHOCOLATE THEN!!!!
Well, as with everything in nutrition, moderation is key my friends! Chocolate still comes with a lot of saturated fat, so we need to consume it in moderation. Some chocolates are more beneficial then others, although some evidence hasn’t been able to prove that (source). However, darker chocolates contain more antioxidants, so perhaps it is better to choose those kinds.
How To Choose Healthier Chocolates and What To Look Out For
A lot of chocolate comes with added sugar, oils and all those jazzy things. Here is what you should be looking out for:
- To maximize antioxidant consumption, choose chocolate with a higher cocoa percentage (70% and more) TIP: many people don’t like dark chocolate because it is so bitter. Here is what I recommend; try getting used to it by working your way up the cocoa percentages. Start with 60-70%, then try going higher and higher. I used to hate dark chocolate, and now I always have a 90% chocolate bar hanging around my desk or room.
- Look at the ingredients list: Higher quality chocolate bars will NOT have sugar as a first ingredient. the ingredient list should be short, and sugar should be found at the end of the list.
- White Chocolate: This might be obvious, but white chocolate contains no cocoa. Therefore, no antioxidants or any of the benefits that come with it. It’s pretty much just sugar and fat.
- Milk Chocolates: There exists different qualities of milk chocolate as well, always try to go for varieties that don’t list sugar as the first ingredient.
Comparing Chocolate Bars
One last benefit of eating dark chocolate…
It isn’t addicting! Even though I love the taste, I never feel the need to eat more than 2 squares. So although it is high in fat, chances are you won’t be eating enough for it to matter that much.
I hope you all enjoyed this post, and remember that if you love chocolate, then go ahead and eat it! If you haven’t tried or are skeptical about dark chocolate, I recommend you give it a try. If not, then enjoy any type of chocolate you love (always in moderation, of course) because chocolate is yummy and you should never be depriving yourself too much!
What do you think about dark chocolate? I’m eager to know your thoughts!