The famous all-about-chocolate holiday is coming up.
So, you may be wondering: Is chocolate healthy?
The short answer: It can be.
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, it’s hard to pass up the heart-shaped boxes of chocolate candy. But is it really necessary to nix chocolate from your diet?
Skip the super sugary junk and opt for dark chocolate and you’re in the clear.
Here we share the health benefits of chocolate, including its ability to reduce stroke, boost fitness training, and more.
The Health Benefits of Chocolate Your Body Will Love
The sweet truth is health benefits of chocolate do exist.
Cacao is the magic ingredient that houses all the minerals and goodness that benefits you. But, it has to be high-quality dark chocolate chock full of a high cacao content. The darker the chocolate, the higher the mineral content is — in most cases. The other term you’ll hear — cocoa— is the powder that comes out of ground cacao beans.
As for how much chocolate you should consume? One to two ounces daily is plenty to reap the benefits without expanding your waistline.
Here’s why it’s ok to indulge in a bit of chocolate every now and then:
1. Provides Antioxidants and Minerals
Dark chocolate is created from a cocoa tree seed, which is known as one of the best antioxidant sources around. Thanks to antioxidants like polyphenols and flavanols in dark chocolate, you can minimize cell damage when you ingest this yummy treat. Not to mention, it’s full of other minerals the body needs like zinc, magnesium, and iron.
2. Improves Brain Function
Healthy volunteers participating in a study where they ate high-flavanol cocoa for five days showed improved blood flow to the brain. Additionally, studies found dark chocolate consumption potentially improves verbal fluency. A blood flow increase after eating dark chocolate could be the reason.
3. May Reduce Heart Disease
Given that heart disease kills 600,000 Americans in any given year, those who are at risk may consider upping their dark chocolate intake. One observational study found a potential link between chocolate intake of six grams daily and a reduction of heart disease risk and death, thanks to blood pressure reduction. So go ahead and enjoy that sampling of heart-shaped chocolates. Just make sure it’s dark chocolate.
4. Decreases Stroke Risk
One Canadian study found that participants who had two ounces of chocolate weekly were 46% less likely to die from a stroke. Additional findings also suggest eating up to 100 grams of chocolate daily could reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease.
5. Helps the Gut
While a daily dose of chocolate may seem like a counterproductive way to maintain gut health, studies are showing otherwise. One article published in Frontiers in Pharmacology detailed that chocolate is like a prebiotic during digestion, which encourages good gut bacteria. The more of this good bacteria you have, the better your body can absorb other pertinent nutrients.
6. Boosts Energy Levels
High-cocoa chocolate is known for improving muscle capillary growth. This applies to big muscles like in your arms and legs, but also the heart muscle. A study published in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition offered insight that a bite or two of dark chocolate might boost oxygen availability during fitness training.
7. Reduces Cravings for Other Snacks
One University of Copenhagen study found that participants eating dark chocolate could more easily refuse sweets or snacks later. After a 12-hour fast, they consumed either milk or dark chocolate and were encouraged to eat as much pizza as they wanted. The dark chocolate fans ended up eating less pizza.
Is Chocolate Healthy? In Moderation, Of Course
While dark chocolate still shouldn’t be considered a health food, it’s a better alternative to enjoying a sweet than traditional milk chocolate.
Plus, how can you deny scientific research that it has positive effects on the body like minimizing stress and improving mood? It’s easy to see the health benefits of chocolate are hard to deny.
When selecting your dark chocolate, picking one that’s 70% or higher in cocoa is the best choice. Just remember the higher the percentage, the more bitter it will be.
Like with most good things in life, enjoying it in moderation is key. While it can be hard — hello discount Valentine’s Day candy bin — remembering that too much of a good thing can keep your consumption levels down.
Interested in helping your employees live their best lives? Check out The Employee Wellness Project to encourage your team to achieve optimum health!