Chocolate has so many things wrapped up in each bite: deliciousness indulged in the moment, delightful childhood memories, and that undeniably warm reminder of just how sweet life can be. People have been enjoying chocolate for thousands of years. And though we’re often told not to eat too much of it, is it really all that bad for us? It turns out chocolate actually carries exciting health benefits — when eaten in moderation, of course.
So how is chocolate good for you? Here are three fascinating health benefits you get from eating chocolate.
It’s good for the heart and blood vessels
Research reveals you don’t have to feel guilty about having dessert after dinner. Eating chocolate at least once a week can improve blood vessel health, thus reducing the risk of heart disease.
To see if chocolate’s benefits extend to the heart, a study examined data from over 336,000 patients, searching for links between how much chocolate they eat and coronary artery disease — blockages in arteries supplying the heart with blood.
It reveals that people who eat chocolate at least once a week have an eight-percent lower risk of coronary artery disease compared to participants who eat chocolate less frequently. However, study authors caution against overindulging since many candy bars contain other products which can hinder chocolate’s natural goodness.
Improves brain health, prevents mental decline
Eating chocolate improves memory and other cognitive functions, and can even help prevent mental decline if consumed regularly, according to a study.
Scientists say that consuming cocoa on a daily basis boosted attention, memory, processing speed, and verbal fluency. The benefits were greatest seen in those showing signs of memory impairments and mild mental decline.
“Dark chocolate is a rich source of flavanols. So we always eat some dark chocolate. Every day,” the authors explains.
Of course, while eating chocolate regularly might help your brain, other side effects are linked to the high number of calories in the treat. Cocoa also contains caffeine and sugar levels may be particularly high if milk or other sugars are added to products.
Chocolate may help combat diabetes
Chocolate seems like an unlikely ally in the fight against diabetes. But a key to fending off the disease may be found in your favorite chocolate bar, one study finds.
The research shows that some compounds in chocolate may actually help the body release more insulin and respond to blood sugar better.
The researchers performed their experiment on animals, feeding them high-fat diets rich in epicatechin monomers, which are compounds found commonly in cocoa. In the examination, tiny processes occurring between cells, found that the cocoa compounds were helping beta cells secrete more insulin in a more timely manner.
Eating chocolate with breakfast may help burn fat better
Eating chocolate for breakfast probably sounds like an express ticket to obesity, but it may be a healthier idea than many think. Researcher shows that swapping out eggs and bacon for some chocolate can actually lead to burning more fat and lowering blood sugar levels throughout the day.
The study examined 19 women who ate 100 grams of chocolate within one hour of waking up each morning. The group also consumed the same amount of chocolate one hour before bed. The participants’ weight gain and other measures of health were compared to people not eating chocolate.
Results show morning and nighttime chocolate eating did not lead to weight gain in these participants. Moreover, eating chocolate at either time of day can influence a person’s appetite, gut microbiome balance, and sleep quality. Eating chocolate for breakfast can increase fat burning ability and also reduces blood glucose levels. At night, eating chocolate before bed leads to changes in resting and exercise metabolism the following morning.
Dark chocolate boosts mood, memory, immunity
The two studies focused on the benefits of consuming dark chocolate, particularly when it contains 70% cacao and 30% organic cane sugar. Results were gathered from monitored electroencephalography (EEG) responses of participants who had eaten 48 grams (roughly 1 and 1/2 ounces) of dark chocolate.
Researchers found that cacao improves pathways that activate T-cells, boosting the immune response at the cellular level and assisting in neural signals and sensory perception. Moreover, this strongly suggests that 70% cacao is a “superfood” because of its ability to boost neuroplasticity, providing both behavioral and brain health perks.
Next time you reach for that chunk of chocolate and start to feel guilty, remember that as long as you’re limiting how much you actually eat, there are health benefits that to chowing down on the treat. As always, talk to your doctor first before making any changes to your lifestyle or diet.