There’s nothing more satisfying than biting into a piece of chocolate — but that bite can often come with guilt. From a young age, we are taught chocolate isn’t the healthiest snack choice, but is that true? The answer may surprise you.
While it’s best not to overindulge in most types of chocolate, dark chocolate has long been praised for its short and long-term health benefits. In fact, experts recommend consuming 1 ounce of dark chocolate daily as part of a balanced diet. Here are a few benefits of adding this sweet treat to your pantry.
High in Antioxidants
Dark chocolate is primarily made up of cocoa solids. These solids naturally contain antioxidants, which protect cells from damage caused by free radicals (unstable molecules in the body that can damage DNA). Dark chocolate is exceptionally high in flavanol antioxidants, a chemical compound linked to improving blood flow, lowering blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, and decreasing the risk of developing diabetes.
Helps Boost Mood
There is something to be said about the burst of relief one gets when eating a piece of dark chocolate — and there is science to back that up. Polyphenols are a type of antioxidant that lowers stress. Studies have found that consuming polyphenol-rich dark chocolate resulted in significantly lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and people who ate dark chocolate with 85% cacao had better moods than chocolate with lower percentages.
Contains Fiber and Nutrients
While dark chocolate does contain added sugar to offset its naturally bitter taste (about 7 grams per 1 ounce), it also contains fiber and nutrients. Fiber is essential to a balanced diet and has also been linked to lowering the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Dark chocolate that is 70% to 85% cacao has up to 3 grams of fiber per ounce and contains iron, zinc, magnesium, potassium, and healthy fats.
Dark chocolate not only provides the body with valuable nutrients, but it also has anti-inflammatory benefits. Inflammation is a natural response when our immune system is irritated and can damage tissues or aggravate existing conditions, such as arthritis or diabetes. Studies show a link between the anti-inflammatory compounds in dark chocolate and a significant reduction in inflammation.
Improves Brain Function
Eating dark chocolate can benefit your brain? Sign us up. Studies show that chocolate with high levels of flavanol cocoa can improve blood flow to the brain in young adults, helping improve memory, attention, and verbal learning. In older adults, cocoa flavonoids may help cognitive function, decreasing the risk of dementia.
Chocolate has long been associated with acne. However, that’s not the case with dark chocolate. Some of the vitamins and minerals in dark chocolate are good for your skin. For example, manganese supports the creation of collagen, which helps keep skin looking healthy. Studies have also found that the high levels of antioxidants in dark chocolate may help protect your skin from UV rays.
Featured Image Credit: Farknot_Architect/ iStock