You probably don’t need them if you’re a chocoholic like myself, but here are ten great reasons to eat dark chocolate every day. Nothing like confirming your obsession is actually good for you, right? I know. However, in contrast to other obsessions, when it comes to getting your daily dose of rich dark chocolate, the health benefits are very real.
Unlike most treats you can find in the grocery store these days, chocolate and cacao beverages have been there for people to enjoy occasionally for over three thousand years originating in Central and South America. (source)
Today you pretty much can’t find a person who doesn’t enjoy cacao in all of its shapes – whether it’s chocolate cake or hot cocoa. Indeed, there’s something truly magical about a good piece of chocolate. So much so, in fact, that in ancient times people believed cacao – the main ingredient in chocolate, had magical properties and, so it was a part of different rituals. (source)
Nowadays, we all know that consuming too much chocolate isn’t ideal – with the high amounts of sugar and fat it contains, long-term overconsumption can only do harm to your health.
But what if I told you, there was an alternative? That’s right – such a thing exists! And it’s called dark chocolate. You may be surprised to find out that this decadent food can satiate your need for chocolate while simultaneously working wonders for your health.
If you’re curious how, read on to find out how dark chocolate is actually healthy!
10 health benefits of Eating dark chocolate Daily
There are many reasons to enjoy dark chocolate in moderation, even on a daily basis. As it turns out, chocolate with high cacao content aka dark chocolate has many health benefits and can help improve your health in more ways than one. I mean if eating 2 pounds of chocolate per week, worked for the oldest woman who ever lived, there must truly be something to it.
1. Dark Chocolate Improves brain function (source)
The polyphenols in cocoa, the main ingredient in dark chocolate, can help stimulate cerebral blood flow. It does this by stimulating vasodilation aka the widening of your blood vessels in the brain. The cerebral blood flow is extremely important when it comes to supplying your brain with oxygen and energy and increasing it can improve cerebral function.
A study with 30 healthy adults showed that after consuming dark chocolate containing 720 mg of cocoa flavanols, the participants showed improved brain activity in regard to motivation, attentiveness, and time required for choice-making.
Increased brain activity means that you can focus better, so if you have to prepare for something stressful – an exam, presentation, or job interview – it wouldn’t hurt to have some chocolate with high cocoa content! It will, quite literally, help you out.
2. Reduces Your risk Of A Stroke (source)
A meta-analysis of seven different studies spanning over a hundred thousand participants came to the conclusion that people who enjoy high amounts of chocolate on a regular basis had a 29% lower risk of stroke compared to people who didn’t eat chocolate.
The secret here: dark chocolate’s collection of miraculous flavonoids! These powerful antioxidants can increase artery flexibility and reduce the chances of white and red blood cells getting attached to their walls which could lead to a stroke.
3. Improves Blood Pressure (source)
Once again, the magical components here are the cocoa flavonoids. One of their other superpowers is that they also enhance endothelial function and might help to stabilize blood pressure.
For example, in the Taubert study, the participants were given a very small amount of chocolate to eat – a little more than 5 grams each day. After this period, they had their blood drawn and tested. What was incredibly surprising was the fact that their systolic and diastolic blood pressure was much lower after each ingestion.
4. Maintains blood sugar levels. (source)
In a study, a group of people were assigned the task of eating the flavanol-rich dark chocolate, while a second group had to ingest white chocolate. Only the first group showed results with significantly lower blood sugar levels and improved insulin sensitivity.
The flavanols in the chocolate can help increase nitric oxide production. What is important about nitric oxide is that it influences the glucose uptake in your body. Essentially, what happens after consuming dark chocolate is that its flavonoids decrease your body’s insulin resistance – its inability to use the hormone properly in order to benefit from it.
5. Reduces oxidative stress on healthy cells (source)
Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants, which, as the name suggests, fight against oxidative stress. This type of cellular stress is caused by free radicals and brings nothing good along with itself.
In fact, it is quite dangerous as it can cause a number of diseases and illnesses – from increased aging processes to chronic diseases, atherosclerosis, diabetes, degeneration of the immune system and even cancer. (source)
Even though our body can usually fight off free radicals perfectly fine by itself, it can never hurt to aid it – and in such a pleasurable way – by eating dark chocolate.
6. Reduces Stress Levels And Improves Mood (source)
As unbelievable as that sounds, dark chocolate really can work wonders when it comes to enhancing your emotional well-being.
The main culprit behind stress and all sorts of negative feelings, such as anxiety, depression, melancholy, indifference and many, many others, is cortisol. When you are stressed, your body reacts to that and tries to get the situation under control by activating your HPA axis – hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis, which then secretes cortisol, in order to, well, put out the fire. However, when that stress is chronic – the HPA axis stops functioning well, which leads to a chronic elevation in cortisol levels and all the negative effects that come with that.
But, the good news is, letting yourself indulge in some dark chocolate can help you change that. Not only because it’s delicious, but because the polyphenols in high cocoa chocolate work on your cortisol levels. A small study suggests that these flavonoids inhibit enzymes that produce cortisol, which then leads to reduced salivary cortisol levels in people who have high-stress occupations.
Another study found that 30 days of daily high-polyphenol cocoa consumption increased calmness and contentedness in participants. (source)
7. It helps you lose weight
Before you get overly excited, it’s not like dark chocolate is a magical food with superpowers. It does, in fact, help with losing weight, but when it comes to weight loss you can’t rely on eating chocolate alone.
In a study conducted in 2012 (source), dark chocolate consumption lead to a decrease in participants’ BMI (body mass index). But those changes were small. In the cases where there was a bigger and more noticeable change, it was with people who suffered from hypertension and already had a large amount of excess body weight.
This result is sort of a ‘side effect’ from the other benefits that dark chocolate provides. It’s mostly related to the positive changes in endothelial function and blood pressure levels through regular cocoa consumption. Remember that weight loss should always be a combination of a healthy diet, sleep and physical exercises.
8. It is full of vitamins and minerals. (source)
Chocolate full of vitamins and minerals? Are you for real? Actually, yes!
Along with the non-essential antioxidants, dark chocolate also contains several B vitamins (B1, B2, B3 and B9), calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper and iron.
In essence, to keep your body well-nourished, treat yourself to some dark chocolate every day!
9. Can Improve Cholesterol Levels
That’s right! If your cholesterol levels are out of control or just not where your doctor wants them to be, enjoying some dark chocolate every day can help!
In one study, 160 participants were split into 4 groups. One consumed low-polyphenol cocoa powder and the other three – 3 variations of cocoa powder with high polyphenol content. The people drank the cocoa powder with some hot water, twice a day for four weeks.
The results? Well, apparently consuming high-polyphenol cocoa powder can decrease LDL levels (the bad cholesterol), increase HDL (the good cholesterol) and suppress oxidized LDL (which can promote atherosclerosis).
So adding a little bit of cocoa powder to your drinks or enjoying a little bit of dark chocolate daily can truly benefit your health!
10. Enhances Your Gut Microbiome
It seems like we’re only beginning to understand how important the bacteria that live in our gastrointestinal tract truly are. Gut health and the condition of your gut flora can influence everything from your mood, through skin health, all the way to your cardiovascular health. And it makes sense right? After all the gut is the exact spot where you get all the nutrients you need in order to maintain a healthy functioning body. Unhealthy gut flora can lead to nutrient deficiencies, and often to increased levels of lipopolysaccharides (like endotoxin) in your blood. This in turn can lead to chronic inflammation and all the negative effects it has on your overall health.
This happens because certain bacteria found in the gut microbiome contain lipopolysaccharides in their cell wall. The bacteria can release these toxins to act locally in your gut or over time systemically when they cross the gut barrier and enter the blood stream.
So what’s the best thing to do here? Reduce the levels of these bacteria. You can do so by enjoying lots of vegetables, fruits and other plants like nuts, seeds, and legumes. These plants act like food for the good bacteria that keep the gut lining intact – that’s why they’re called prebiotics.
One other tasty food that can change your gut microbiome, and thus result in amazing health benefits is cocoa and dark chocolate. It’s really rich in fiber and antioxidants, both required for healthy thriving gut flora. One study actually found that consuming one ounce (or 30 grams) of 85% dark chocolate for three weeks can increase the abundance of good gut bacteria and reduce the levels of bad bacteria. This change in the gut microbiome was also associated with improved mood, possible via the gut brain axis.
Can you eat dark chocolate every day?
You sure can. A Dutch study showed that eating dark chocolate every day for the span of two weeks resulted in lowered anxiety levels and an increased energetic feeling. (source)
But how much is a healthy daily amount? Most experts suggest that between one to two ounces or 30-60 grams is a ‘perfect’ amount of dark chocolate. Take a look at its nutrition values, 30 grams or one ounce of dark chocolate provides:
- 170 calories
- 12 grams of fat
- 13 grams carbs
- 2 grams of protein
- 3 grams of dietary fiber
- 62 mg of magnesium (19% DRI)
- 3.37 mg iron (30% DRI)
- 0.93 mg zinc (10% DRI)
As you can tell, dark chocolate is rich in essential nutrients, but it’s also pretty calorie-dense and rich in fats. Therefore, dark chocolate is best enjoyed in moderation. If you do eat more than the recommended daily amount, there are chances that you might start gaining weight as the calories start to add up. But a piece of dark chocolate is a much better option when you crave a treat than a high-sugar chocolate cake.
Which is the best type of dark chocolate?
Different dark chocolate types are categorized by percentages – 70%, 85%, etc. The higher the percentage, the higher the amount of cocoa and beneficial essential nutrients in the product. It really comes to your personal taste, but in general dark chocolate with 85%+ cocoa has more benefits and is the best choice when it comes to your mood and your health.
How To Eat Dark Chocolate
The best way to enjoy it is to grab a piece and let it slowly melt in your mouth rather than quickly chewing it up. This way you can really taste it and indulge in its rich beautiful taste. Furthermore, the bitterness will not hit you so suddenly.
Random facts about dark chocolate
- When first discovered by the Maya people, chocolate was not a type of food, but rather a drink. They would add it to a mixture of wine and spices and consume it.
- The production of dark chocolate is a loooong process that involves fermentation, drying, roasting and tempering cocoa beans (source)
- Around 10% of the dry weight of the cocoa bean (which is the main ingredient in dark chocolate) is made out of polyphenols. As we saw, polyphenols are powerful antioxidants and this number in one food alone is quite impressive! Unfortunately, most of these antioxidants are lost after the long processing of the beans, but dark chocolate still packs a significant amount of beneficial flavonoids.
- Dark chocolate is quite durable – it can last up to 2 years if stored correctly.
healthy dark chocolate recipes
Now, we’re coming to the most delicious part of this piece of art right here! What better way to eat your daily chocolate than combined with a few other healthy ingredients? Here are some delicious quick desserts you can whip up in no time.
- Double Chocolate Energy Bites
- No-bake Chocolate Cookies
- Dark Choc and Peanut Clusters
- Healthy Dark Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cups
- Dark Chocolate Bark
- No-Bake Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies
I hope you enjoy these recipes and the benefits that dark chocolate brings with enjoying it in moderation every day!
- 140g / around 1 cup dark chocolate
- 10 heaping tbsp peanut butter
- 2 tsp maple syrup
- 8 pecans
- 2 tbsp almond butter
- Chop the dark chocolate into small pieces and melt it. Then mix the melted chocolate with 2 tbsp of peanut butter.
- In another small bowl mix the remaining peanut butter with maple syrup. Add a pinch of salt if desired. To make it thicker, if using natural peanut butter you could add a tablespoon of two of almond flour (if desired).
- Use silicone muffin liners to make the peanut butter cups layering with dark chocolate, a tbsp of peanut butter on top, then cover again with the melted chocolate. Repeat until you run out of the mixture. (in my case this was enough for about 8 cups).
- Optionally before freezing you can add a pinch of salt on top of each cup. Another option for more crunch would be adding a pecan nut on top of the peanut butter and then layering it with the second layer of chocolate.
- Place the cups onto a baking sheet and freeze for at least an hour.
- Once frozen, peel the silicone liners off and either place them into an airtight container and freeze before they melt or let them sit for 2-3 minutes and enjoy.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 312Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 175mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 4gSugar: 16gProtein: 7g