The Health Benefits of Chocolate (from a chocolatier’s perspective)
I don’t know about you, but whenever I see a headline that touts the health benefits of chocolate, outwardly I say “yay – eat more chocolate!” and inwardly, I say “really, is that true?” I wonder: how much chocolate do I have to eat to get the health advantages? Does it need to be 80%, 90%, 100% cacao content? And really, is chocolate an aphrodisiac? Honestly, I’ve always considered these headlines to be good for business, but I’ve also been skeptical of the hype.
So I decided to dig a little deeper and find out what some real medical experts are saying about legitimate scientific studies. Here’s what I’ve learned:
What kind of chocolate – dark, milk, or white?
Short answer: dark chocolate. Longer answer: It’s all about flavonoids. Flavonoids are a chemical naturally found in cacao beans. When there’s more cacao content in your chocolate, there are more healthy flavonoids. That’s why consuming dark chocolate is healthier for you than milk or white chocolate. Most studies have found that eating 70% dark (or higher) is the way to get the most benefits while still being mindful of calorie intake.
What health benefits does chocolate provide?
The list of benefits is really quite long including everything from greater heart health to fighting cavities. Sometimes these benefits are found from very small studies and then blasted out as truth (which fuels my skepticism). But some studies, done repeatedly and with many participants, have shown health advantages due to the flavonoids and the antioxidant effects. Here are some of the benefits and explanations:
Lowers risks of heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes by
- diminishing cell damage associated with heart disease
- easing inflammation in blood cells
- lowering blood pressure
- reducing “bad” cholesterol
- improving blood circulation
- increasing blood flow to the brain
Reduces risk of diabetes by
- improving blood sugar
- regulating insulin sensitivity
Improves brain function and lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by
- producing more endorphins
- improving memory and problem solving with increased blood flow to the brain
- reducing damage in neural pathways
Decreases chances of getting cancer by
- destroying harmful molecules known as free radicals
- reducing inflammation
Fights cavities by
- slowing tooth decay
- preventing bacteria from sticking to your teeth (due to the tannins found in chocolate)
Other possible health benefits with some scientific credibility behind them include reducing food cravings, lowering body mass index (BMI), and helping to calm a cough.
How much chocolate can I/do I need to eat?
For most of us, it’s important to balance the benefits of chocolate with the risks associated with weight gain. That’s why medical experts and scientists generally agree on one ounce of dark chocolate every day. One ounce every day? That’s TWO of our double dark truffles, or EIGHT of our dark chocolate solid hearts. Or a luscious cup of our Aztec (or double dark) hot chocolate. There are so many ways to bring this joy into your life along with the health advantages.
Is chocolate an aphrodisiac?
Um, sorry, not exactly. There’s no scientific or medical basis for claims that chocolate can increase sexual desire. That said, chocolate is a pleasure, we all know that. And any pleasure can stimulate the senses, making the body and mind ready for more sensual pleasures. And as a chocolatier, I know the positive power of expressing love, whether that’s through gifts of chocolate or from a special shared moment.
As a chocolatier, and as a major chocolate fan myself, you’d think I’d always been looking for news that’s supports the idea of eating more chocolate. But I always want to start with a healthy skepticism and do my own research to be sure I’m getting factual information. Now I can safely say that chocolate – the right kind and the right amount – does provide health benefits. I think I might go have a piece right now!