If you’re a chocolate lover, we’ve got some good news for you: eating dark chocolate is actually good for you! This might sound surprising, but many studies have shown that indulging in a square or two of dark chocolate can have a number of benefits to both our mental and physical health. Here’s what you need to know so that you can enjoy this bittersweet treat with no guilty feelings.
The definition of dark chocolate
Firstly, it’s important to recognize that not all types of chocolate are good for us. It is specifically dark chocolate that has been found to have health benefits due to the high cocoa content it contains. So, what exactly is dark chocolate? Well, it’s a type of confectionery made from the seed (or bean) of the cocoa tree and generally must be between 50-100% cocoa in order to be classified as ‘dark’. The higher the cocoa percentage, the more bitter the chocolate tastes – and the better it is for you.
Unlike milk and white chocolate, dark chocolate doesn’t contain any milk. Instead, it’s packed with antioxidants and minerals such as magnesium, copper, iron, and manganese. It also usually has lower levels of fat and sugar, which is another reason why it’s better for you than the sweeter varieties.
Dark chocolate comes in both bars and chocolate gift boxes, sometimes with extra ingredients such as nuts, fruit, or mint for added flavor and texture. Generally speaking, nutritionists consider around 20g (six small pieces or two large squares) to be a reasonable portion size. Be sure to check the labels of the products before you buy to make sure that you’re getting the purest – and therefore healthiest – chocolate. Buying organic can be a good way to ensure this.
The health benefits of dark chocolate
There’s plenty of research out there that indicates that dark chocolate has positive impacts on our mental and physical health. For example, perhaps the most widely known benefit is that it can help to keep your heart healthy. This is because the flavonoids it contains are thought to relax our blood vessels, which in turn lowers blood pressure and improves blood flow. As such, people who eat dark chocolate can benefit from a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.
In addition to being good for your heart, dark chocolate can also be good for your brain. It’s thought that the flavanols in the confection can stimulate cognitive function and maybe even offer some protection against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Therefore, eating dark chocolate could boost your memory and enable your brain to function more effectively – talk about a perfect treat to snack on while you’re studying!
This last point will probably come as no surprise, but eating dark chocolate can also make you happier. It’s been shown to stimulate areas of the brain which are linked with pleasure and reward, and this, in turn, makes you feel less stressed and boosts your mood. So, it’s no wonder that many of us consistently turn to chocolate when we’re feeling a bit down. Just remember to always enjoy it in moderation!