Written by: Fannie Dancose, April 2020
Is dark chocolate actually good for you? Well, yes it is! Packed with antioxidants, it could serve as a good treat after all. Here are five proven health benefits of dark chocolate:
Several studies observed that chocolate with high levels of cocoa can increase blood flow in the brain, and can help the dilation of blood vessels in the body. This means that blood vessels can let more blood pass and decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, strokes, and high blood pressure (1, 2).
Epicatechin is one of the antioxidants you can find in dark chocolate. The more cocoa you have, the more epicatechin molecules there are. In a study done in 2016, it was found that participants eating a chocolate drink with a high quantity of antioxidants would eat less at the following meal (3). If you want a snack that will make you feel more satisfied, dark chocolate should be your go-to.
In a large study of about 20,000 participants, researchers have found that there is a link between higher consumption of dark chocolate and a low incidence of type 2 diabetes in men less than 65 years old. This association could be due to the beneficial effect of dark chocolate on insulin resistance, among other things (4, 5).
Cognitive function is related to how your brain works, and some other antioxidants in dark chocolate called flavonols, can help support this function. In a study done on older adults, the consumption of cocoa flavonols improved performance on tests measuring cognitive function (5).
Just like cognitive function, memory is an important brain activity and can be supported by antioxidants found in dark chocolate. In several studies done on young and old adults, chocolate with a high concentration of cocoa improved performance on tests assessing visual memory or working memory (the type used for mental calculations) (6). Maybe the next time you are studying, you might consider having a dark chocolate snack next to you!
Obviously, like anything in life, it is best to eat dark chocolate in moderation. Consumed in this way, it is part of a healthy diet and you shouldn't feel ashamed or guilty after eating some. To fully benefit from it, make sure to use non-alkalized or natural cocoa when baking since it has the highest quantity of antioxidants. Lastly, choose chocolate bars that have a high percentage of cocoa, a small ingredient list, and added nutrient values like higher protein, iron and fibre, like our Bean Bark.
Marsh, C. E., Carter, H. H., Guelfi, K. J., Smith, K. J., Pike, K. E., Naylor, L. H., & Green, D. J. (2017). Brachial and Cerebrovascular Functions Are Enhanced in Postmenopausal Women after Ingestion of Chocolate with a High Concentration of Cocoa. The Journal of nutrition, 147(9), 1686-1692.
Hooper, L., Kay, C., Abdelhamid, A., Kroon, P. A., Cohn, J. S., Rimm, E. B., & Cassidy, A. (2012). Effects of chocolate, cocoa, and flavan-3-ols on cardiovascular health: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 95(3), 740-751.
Greenberg, J. A., O'Donnell, R., Shurpin, M., & Kordunova, D. (2016). Epicatechin, procyanidins, cocoa, and appetite: a randomized controlled trial. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 104(3), 613-619.
Matsumoto, C., Petrone, A. B., Sesso, H. D., Gaziano, J. M., & Djoussé, L. (2015). Chocolate consumption and risk of diabetes mellitus in the Physicians' Health Study. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 101(2), 362-367.
Mastroiacovo, D., Kwik-Uribe, C., Grassi, D., Necozione, S., Raffaele, A., Pistacchio, L., Righetti, R., Bocale, R., Lechiara, M. C., Marini, C., Ferri, C., & Desideri, G. (2015). Cocoa flavanol consumption improves cognitive function, blood pressure control, and metabolic profile in elderly subjects: the Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) Study--a randomized controlled trial. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 101(3), 538–548.
Barrera-Reyes, P. K., de Lara, J. C., González-Soto, M., & Tejero, M. E. (2020). Effects of Cocoa-Derived Polyphenols on Cognitive Function in Humans. Systematic Review and Analysis of Methodological Aspects. Plant Foods Hum Nutr, 75(1), 1-11.