Dark Chocolate Health Benefits
Regular intake of dark chocolate can improve your mood, mental clarity, blood pressure, and blood sugar control, most likely due to the effects of antioxidant substances called flavonoids in cocoa solids.
For example, eating dark chocolate enhances the production of serotonin, a calming, “feel-good” neurotransmitter. Adding dark chocolate to the diets of people with chronic fatigue syndrome for two weeks reduced symptoms, while consuming a product that looked and tasted similar but did not contain cocoa solids did not produce the same effect. Eating high-cocoa chocolate increases blood flow in the brain, which improves alertness and thinking ability. It also seems to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke or heart disease. Reduction in blood cortisol and insulin would lessen the gain of belly fat.
What’s the connection of chocolate with calm?
If you’re cooped up at home and craving chocolate, this might be the time to give in. Evidence supports eating dark chocolate for stress relief, so consider adding it to your self-care plan!
Researchers in Switzerland and Germany discovered that people with high anxiety who ate an ounce and a half of dark chocolate every day for two weeks had lower levels of stress hormones and signs of disease-causing bacteria in their gut. This work came from the Nestle Research Center, which obviously wants to promote chocolate, but information from other sources also suggests eating a small amount of dark chocolate every day is good for your health.
How Much to Eat?
To get a health benefit from chocolate, most research suggests eating an ounce to ounce and a half daily. Aim for dark chocolate with 60-80 percent cocoa solids to get the flavonoids that impart health benefits. Milk chocolate has less flavonoids, and has not been found to promote health to the same degree. Sadly, three years of follow-up from the Nurses Research Study found an association between intake of milk chocolate candy and more weight gain. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25644711/
You can include chocolate in your breakfast, as I demonstrated in a recent cooking video https://deborahrankinrd.com/dark-chocolate-health-benefits/ Mix it with nuts and dried fruits as a mid-morning or afternoon snack, or savor it after dinner with a cup of caffeine-free coffee, herbal tea, or glass of red wine. During the years when I traveled over half the time for business, I made it a rule not to head for the aiport without a bar of dark chocolate in my briefcase. That chocolate calmed and soothed me during many aiport delays and kept me from going berserk when the plan sat for hours on the tarmac waiting to take off.
Dark Chocolate Nutrition Facts
While nutrition facts will vary slightly depending on the brand, 1 ounce dark chocolate will contain from 170-220 calories, 14-17 grams fat, 8-12 grams carbohydrate, 2-3 grams protein, and 3-4 grams dietary fiber. The fiber in dark chocolate acts as a prebiotic and supports the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. Dark chocolate without added sea salt contain little sodium, and with almost 300 milligrams of potassium yields a desirable potassium to sodium ratio that may help reduce blood pressure. Chocolate is also a good source of magnesium, a mineral important for bone health, good sleep, and stable mood.
Reduce Stress with Dark Chocolate
Poet and artist Sandra Boynton once wrote
The greatest tragedies were written by the Greeks and Shakespeare…neither knew chocolate.
While tragedy and stress is unavoidable, we each get to choose how we respond. Relieve your stress and prevent burnout—that sense of exhaustion and overload caused by unrelenting stress—by finding small things to enjoy each day, such as chocolate with your breakfast, snack, or evening routines. Make chocolate a pleasant, calming, and restorative part of your day.
If you’d like to find areas of your life that might benefit from stress relief, take my quick quiz to identify habits that put you at risk for overwhelm and burnout: Take the Burn out Quiz
Evidence About Dark Chocolate For Stress Relief
Effects of dark chocolate consumption on energy, gut microbiota, and stress-related metabolism in free-living subjects.https://doi.org/10.1021/pr900607v
The effects of nutrients on mood. https://doi.org/10.1017/s1368980099000555
High cocoa polyphenol rich chocolate may reduce the burden of the symptoms in chronic fatigue syndrome. https://rdcu.be/b3rX3
What Will You Do?
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