19 Benefits And Side Effects of Dark Chocolate

Did you know that dark chocolate has many health benefits? It may even help prevent heart disease. But most people don’t realize how beneficial dark chocolate really is.

There are many reasons why eating dark chocolate is great for your body. In this article, I’ll go over the top 15 benefits of eating dark chocolate.

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Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

1. Good Source of Antioxidants

Dark chocolate contains an abundance of antioxidants. These antioxidant-rich foods have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases like stroke and coronary arteries blockages (atherosclerosis). They also improve blood flow throughout the body. This helps protect against other types of illnesses associated with low oxygen levels.

2. Anti Inflammatory Properties

Antioxidants can fight inflammation in the body. Anti-inflammatory properties make eating dark chocolate a natural way to naturally treat conditions such as arthritis. It’s a safe alternative to anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed by doctors.

3. Reduces Depression

Dark chocolate triggers a natural chemical reaction in the brain called endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals that make us happy. So when we eat dark chocolate, it makes us happier and more relaxed.

This helps with depression because dark chocolate lowers stress levels. When our bodies feel stressed out, they produce higher amounts of cortisol which can cause depression.

4. Helps Weight Loss

When our bodies are stressed they tend to crave carbohydrates and sugar. Foods high in carbs and sugar increase appetite and trigger cravings.

These foods lead to overeating and weight gain. Dark chocolate helps curb these impulses by reducing stress hormone production.

5. Lowers Cholesterol

The fats in dark chocolate have been proven to lower bad cholesterol (LDL). Studies show that eating up to two ounces of dark chocolate per day reduces LDL by about 7 percent. Even better, eating just one square of 70% cacao chocolate daily will cut LDL by 5%.

Dark chocolate contains other nutrients such as magnesium, iron, and manganese that help promote good cholesterol (HDL).

6. Supports Stronger Immune System

Chocolate increases dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine levels. Dopamine and serotonin are neurotransmitters that regulate mood, feelings of pleasure, motivation, appetite, and sleepiness/alertness.

Norepinephrine regulates energy level and arousal. These neurochemicals enhance our immune system response. When we have a healthier immune system we fight off colds and infections easier!

7. Promotes Brain Health

Chocolate actually improves attention span and memory retention. These effects happen because it raises blood flow to the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain responsible for focus and cognitive function.

8. Eases Anxiety

Dark chocolate calms nerves and aids relaxation. To reap its benefits, start small: try having a few squares for dessert or add a square to your favorite drink to boost energy. Don’t overdo it; too much may be harmful to your heart.

9. Enhances Mood

Many people struggle with low self-esteem and feel gloomy most days. Adding some dark chocolate to their diet has a positive impact on mood.

Researchers believe this happens because dark chocolate contains phenylethylamine or PEA. It’s similar to the chemical in MDMA (“ecstasy”) that gives us feelings of euphoria.

Because it mimics “happy” chemicals in the body, we tend to feel more optimistic, less anxious, and happier.

10. Helps Relieve Depression

There is a wealth of research demonstrating the antidepressant effect of dark chocolate. One study found that women who ate three square meals of dark chocolate every week were 37% less likely to experience depression during pregnancy.

Another study suggests that dark chocolate can reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.

A recent study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that pregnant women who consumed 30 grams of daily dark chocolate had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

This was particularly true among those who experienced greater anxiety or depressive symptoms. Researchers suspect that these changes occur because of cacao’s high concentrations of flavonoids, and plant pigments that help lower cholesterol.

11. Boosts Immune System

Flavonoids help protect red blood cells against damage by free radicals (oxidants). They also trigger white blood cells to attack pathogens such as viruses and bacteria. Consuming foods with lots of antioxidants boosts immunity and fights disease.

12. Keeps Skin Healthy

Chocolate products are generally derived from beans rather than the tree itself. For example, Criollo chocolate is made from the Criolla variety of beans native to Venezuela.

Some brands have been linked to skin allergies due to an ingredient called Araucaria gum. The FDA warns consumers to avoid products containing this additive. Other ingredients like wheat flour should not cause any problems.

13. Reduces Risk Of Diabetes

Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center say that consuming up to 70 grams of dark chocolate each day can cut the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 41%.

Why?

Scientists believe the antioxidant properties of cocoa may improve insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism within our bodies.

And since most people consume at least one piece of chocolate a day, there may not be anything wrong with eating two pieces a day. In fact, studies show that even a single serving can help control blood sugar levels.

14. Improves Digestion

Cocoa powder improves digestion and speeds up elimination through several mechanisms.

First, it absorbs water – about six times its own weight – to form a gel.

When the gelatinous mass reaches the colon, it creates more space for undigested food materials to pass through.

Second, it binds digestive enzymes inside the stomach so they don’t escape into the small intestine where they could wreak havoc on the body.

Third, it stimulates mucus production, helping to clear the intestines of toxins and other foreign objects before they enter circulation.

15. Increases Life Expectancy

A 2005 study published in The Lancet claims that people who eat moderate amounts of chocolate enjoy a 10 percent longer lifespan! That’s right: chocoholics live longer than nonchocoholics.

But why?

Researchers think that the antioxidant compounds in chocolate could prevent the accumulation of protein molecules known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs) found in many chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s Disease.

These proteins make your body chemically reactive which leads to inflammation and cell death. By inhibiting the formation of dangerous proteins, chocolate may slow age-related cellular degradation.

16. Lowers Cholesterol Levels

Some evidence suggests that flavanol (the active compound in cacao that lowers cholesterol) inhibits an enzyme called HMG Co-A reductase involved in the synthesis of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), a substance responsible for clogging arteries.

This makes sense given the relationship between high LDL cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. Since we know chocolate contains flavanols, we can assume that these compounds will reduce LDL cholesterol levels.

One study showed that half a cup of cocoa daily lowered total cholesterol levels and triglycerides (risk factors associated with heart disease) by 15% and 20%, respectively.

Another study reported that women who ate three or four servings of chocolate per week had lower total cholesterol compared to those who didn’t eat chocolate weekly. Studies of animal subjects show similar results.

Dark chocolate side effects

While there are no long-term studies showing the negative effects of moderate consumption, there are concerns about excessive amounts of dark chocolate.

Most people don’t know how much sugar they’re getting when they eat chocolate because manufacturers use different names for the same thing. “There are lots of words for sugar,” he says. “Some are better than others.”

It is recommended to choose a bar of 70% cacao or above. If you want to go even darker, look for 85% cacao or above.

Some concerns with overeating dark chocolates are as follows.

1. Contains caffeine

Dark chocolate is full of powerful antioxidants that have a positive effect on improving cardiovascular health and reducing inflammation. But there’s another reason why people love dark chocolate: It contains high levels of caffeine. In fact, one ounce of dark chocolate can contain up to 50 milligrams of caffeine.

If you’re sensitive to caffeine, be careful when eating dark chocolate, because too much could cause insomnia or anxiety. To make matters worse, some studies show that dark chocolate might actually help reduce sleep quality. So, if you’re looking for something sweet without caffeine, try milk chocolate.

According to researchers at the University of California, San Diego, milk chocolate has less caffeine than dark chocolate. One serving of milk chocolate contains 10 mg of caffeine, compared to 20 mg of caffeine per serving of dark chocolate. You can enjoy both types of chocolate, but limit yourself to no more than one serving per day.

2. Contributes to weight gain

Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and flavonoids, nutrients that help protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer. But, it’s high in calories and saturated fat, which could lead to weight gain and increased risk of heart disease.

In one study published in Nutrition Journal in 2016, researchers found that people who ate about 70 grams of dark chocolate daily had lower fasting glucose levels compared to those who consumed less than 10 grams per day. However, there are no studies showing that dark chocolate helps reduce body weight.

The American Heart Association recommends consuming three ounces of dark chocolate each week. Some experts say you can eat up to five servings of dark chocolate weekly without exceeding recommended intake guidelines.

3. Increases risk of kidney stones

Dark chocolate contains high levels of oxalic acid, which increases the risk of developing kidney stones. This mineral binds to proteins in the urine, increasing the likelihood of forming crystals that become hard enough to pass out of the body.

Oxalic acid occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables, including spinach, rhubarb, beans, nuts, and strawberries. But most people don’t eat enough of those foods to develop kidney stones.

However, if you are at risk of developing kidney stones, it is better to avoid dark chocolate because of the oxalate content found in cocoa.

If you must eat chocolate, stick to milk chocolate.

4. May worsen GERD symptoms

People living with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), better known as heartburn, may want to avoid chocolate because it contains caffeine, which is thought to exacerbate GERD symptoms in some individuals.

In addition, chocolate is high in fat, which slows down digestion and empties the stomach slower, causing acid reflux to become more common.

Conclusion

In conclusion, if you’re looking for a sweet treat that will satisfy your cravings without weighing you down, look no further than dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has been shown to have many health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and helping prevent heart disease. But before you go gorging on the stuff, remember that too much of anything isn’t always a good thing.

 

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