The argument for dark chocolate.
For over 2000 years, people have worshipped chocolate. The Mayans believed in and paid homage to a god of cocoa. The Aztecs called it the “food of the gods” and used chocolate-giving cocoa beans as currency.
Today, chocolate is big business with global sales of $74 billion annually. But is it good for you?
According to a well-researched history of chocolate published by Cornell University, chocolate has been called “more than a food, less than a drug.” Recent clinical research, meanwhile, suggests that—yes—dark chocolate might just be good medicine.
Long-Term Health Benefits of Chocolate
There is substantial medical evidence confirming that eating dark chocolate is good for your long-term health. For instance:
- A 2011 Swedish study found that women who consumed more than 45g of chocolate a week had a 20% lower risk of having a stroke, compared to those women who ate very little chocolate. For reference, 45g is just a little bit bigger than an OurSkinny bar (or just about any similar-sized candy bar).
- Dark chocolate, specifically, has been shown to have heart-healthy properties. It can potentially reduce cardiovascular inflammation and has been shown to lower blood pressure as well as the LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol.
- An (admittedly small) study done in Italy in 2005 found that regularly eating chocolate increased one’s sensitivity to insulin, thereby decreasing the risk for diabetes.
Short-Term Health Benefits of Chocolate
In addition to the long-term benefits of eating chocolate (especially chocolate with a high % of cocoa), research suggests that there are some interesting side benefits. If chocolate were a drug, I suppose we’d call these side effects:
- Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine which has an antitussive effect. In other words, it helps suppress coughs. In fact, the cough-suppressing effect of theobromine may be greater than that of the codeine that is generally found in cough syrups.
- Cocoa has even been shown to improve blood flow. In fact, its anti-clotting, blood-thinning properties function pretty much the same way that aspirin does.
- In a study performed at the University of Reading, it was shown that chocolate increased blood flow, especially to the brain, resulting in possible improvements in vision.
It is thought that flavonoids help protect plants and people from environmental toxins and help repair tissue and other damage.
Of course, it’s important to note that dark chocolate has more flavonoids than milk chocolate. In other words, the darker the chocolate (i.e. the greater % of cocoa), the better it is for you.
Chocolate and Weight Loss
Strangely enough, a more recent study showed that eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate was associated with weighing less. Why might that be?
Well, a study undertaken at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark showed the dark chocolate candy was remarkably satisfying, thereby reducing cravings for sweet, salty, and fatty foods. Additionally, dark chocolate is rich in fiber and can also fill you up so that you’ll eat less.
Slow down: I’m not suggesting you go devour a bag of Reece’s Minis here.
Most chocolate sold in the candy aisle is very low in cocoa. Not to pick on folks in Hershey, Pennsylvania, but the cocoa content in their signature Hershey’s chocolate bar is only about 11%, or just over the legal minimum of 10%. And, of course, they are making up for it by loading that “chocolate” bar up on sugar and milk fat, among other things.
The bottom line is this:
The only chocolate that’s recommended as part of the OurSkinny Weight Loss Program is the yummy chocolate in our shakes and bars.
With that said, you—and anyone on any sort of weight loss regimen—could do a lot worse when it comes to the occasional “cheat” than to have a bite of high-percent dark chocolate.
- Dr. Paul S. Bradley