Today’s topic is Nutrition! On Wednesdays, we seek to provide you with up-to-date conversations surrounding personal nutrition and dietary habits, as well as tips that we believe will boost your overall well-being! Today’s subject is dark chocolate!
Dark chocolate has gained a reputation for being a healthier alternative to milk and white chocolate, and for good reason. While all chocolate can have some potential health benefits, dark chocolate stands out due to its high levels of antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients. In the spirit of the holiday season, we’ll explore the pros and cons of consuming chocolate, and explain why dark chocolate is the best choice for those looking to indulge in a sweet treat!
First, let’s start with the pros of consuming chocolate. Many studies have shown that chocolate, especially dark chocolate, can have several health benefits. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that consuming moderate amounts of chocolate was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (Mozaffarian et al., 2011). This is due to the high levels of antioxidants found in cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate.
These antioxidants, otherwise known as flavonoids, help to reduce inflammation and improve blood flow, which can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke (Mozaffarian et al., 2011). Another benefit of chocolate consumption is its potential to improve brain function. A study published in the journal Appetite found that consuming cocoa flavonoids improved blood flow to the brain and resulted in improved performance on cognitive tests (Field, et al., 2011). This is thought to be due to the effects of cocoa flavonoids on the brain’s blood vessels and the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin (Field et al., 2011).
While chocolate can have some potential health benefits, it’s important to remember that it is still a high-calorie, high-sugar food. Eating too much chocolate can contribute to weight gain and increase the risk of developing diabetes and other health problems (Mozaffarian et al., 2011). It’s important to consume chocolate in moderation and choose dark chocolate, which has less sugar and calories than milk or white chocolate.
So, why is dark chocolate the best choice? Dark chocolate is made from cocoa beans that have been roasted and ground and contain a higher percentage of cocoa solids than milk or white chocolate (Bradley, 2018). This means that it has a higher concentration of cocoa flavonoids and other beneficial nutrients, such as fiber, iron, and magnesium (Bradley, 2018). Dark chocolate also has a lower sugar content than milk and white chocolate, making it a healthier option for those looking to indulge in a sweet treat (Bradley, 2018). In addition, dark chocolate has been shown to have many other potential health benefits.
A review published in the journal Nutrition found that consuming dark chocolate was associated with a reduced risk of several health conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and certain types of cancer (Lopez-Garcia, et al., 2014). The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 6 ounces of chocolate per week for men and no more than 4 ounces per week for women (American Heart Association, 2020). It’s important to remember that chocolate should be consumed in moderation as part of a healthy, balanced diet, rather than as a main source of nutrients.
Luckily, consuming dark chocolate can have several potential health benefits, including a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, improved brain function, and a reduced risk of several other health conditions. However, it’s important to consume chocolate in moderation and choose dark chocolate, which has a higher concentration of beneficial nutrients and a lower sugar content.
When choosing dark chocolate, it’s important to pay attention to the percentage of cocoa solids. Look for chocolate with a higher percentage of cocoa solids, as this will indicate a higher concentration of beneficial nutrients and a lower sugar content. Aim for chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids, and try to avoid chocolates with added sugar or artificial sweeteners. In addition to the percentage of cocoa solids, consider the source of the cocoa beans.
Choose chocolate made with cocoa beans that are sustainably sourced and ethically produced. Look for brands that are transparent about their cocoa sourcing and production practices, and consider supporting companies that invest in cocoa farmers and communities. Finally, consider the serving size when consuming dark chocolate. A serving of dark chocolate is typically 1 ounce or about a square of chocolate. Pay attention to portion sizes and be mindful of how much chocolate you are consuming. Remember, moderation is key when it comes to chocolate and other sweets.
Dark chocolate can be a tasty and healthy indulgence when consumed in moderation. Choose chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa solids, pay attention to the source of the cocoa beans, and be mindful of serving sizes to enjoy the benefits of dark chocolate without overindulging. Until next time…
- Bradley, H. (2018). Dark chocolate 101: Nutrition facts and health benefits. Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/dark-chocolate-101
- Field, D., Williams, C., Butler, L., Eckermann, S., et al. (2011). The effect of cocoa flavanol consumption on cognitive function, blood pressure and metabolic profile in healthy elderly subjects: a randomized controlled trial. Appetite, 57(2), 479-486.
- Lopez-Garcia, E., Bes-Rastrollo, M., Sanchez-Villegas, A., Martinez-Gonzalez, M.A. (2014). Chocolate consumption and risk of cardiovascular diseases: A meta-analysis. Nutrition, 30(2), 303-312.
- Mozaffarian, D., Hao, T., Rimm, E.B., Willett, W.C., Hu, F.B. (2011). Changes in diet and lifestyle and long-term weight gain in women and men. New England Journal of Medicine, 364(25), 2392-2404.