Did you know that chocolate is considered a superfood? It’s true!

Not milk or white chocolate—just dark chocolate (70% or higher). Scientific studies have shown dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and packed with nutrients, making this bittersweet treat a favorite superfood. The “superpower” comes from the cacao (pronounced ka-kow, I love saying this word).

What is Cacao?
Cacao is cocoa in its raw, less-processed form. It grows from trees called Theobroma cacao. Chocolatiers who make chocolate from scratch only use the word cacao for the pod and beans before fermentation. After fermentation, they call them cocoa beans.

Dark chocolate contains 50-90% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar, whereas milk chocolate contains:
Anywhere from 10-50% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, milk in some form and higher amounts of sugar.

Why are 50-90 % cacao solids better?
Cacao products contain the following nutrients:
• Iron. Dark chocolate can have more than 10 milligrams (mg) of iron in a 100-gram serving.
• Magnesium. There’s more than 250mg of magnesium in 100 grams of dark chocolate.
• Zinc. Zinc can be found in chocolate with a 90% cocoa content. This mineral helps support your immune system.
• Flavonols are nutrient compounds that are found in plants. They have antioxidant properties, help fight certain cancers, and promote a healthy heart.
• Amino acid. Dark chocolate has an amino acid called tryptophan, which sends signals to your brain that help you relax.
• Copper. Copper is essential for brain development, helps your body take in iron, and assists your body in metabolizing glucose. A 100-gram serving of dark chocolate has 31% of your recommended daily allowance (RDA).

Who doesn’t love dark chocolate?

It’s rich and decadent, and it makes everything better. But did you know there are many benefits to eating dark chocolate?

It cuts cravings for sweets.

Like many others, I crave a piece of chocolate every day. But after my 30-day challenge of switching from milk chocolate, aka Butterfingers, to a square of dark chocolate, I have fulfilled a sweet craving and gotten antioxidants like polyphenol.

Improve brainpower

There’s a reason you feel smarter after eating chocolate, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the caffeine in the cocoa beans. According to new research, dark chocolate may improve cognition by increasing blood flow and boosting brainpower. The study, published in April 2018 in The FASEB Journal, found that flavonoids found in dark chocolate improve memory and learning by helping to control neural activity. According to the researchers, “our study has shown that flavonoids can improve memory performance by increasing blood flow to parts of the brain responsible for this function.”

Protects your skin

Dark chocolate contains antioxidants, essential for keeping skin looking young and healthy. In addition, the antioxidants in dark chocolate can help protect your skin from UV radiation.
Dark chocolate also contains copper, iron, magnesium, and manganese—all essential nutrients that can help your skin look younger and healthier. Manganese supports collagen formation, which keeps skin appearing youthful. Copper plays a role in collagen synthesis and other vital functions in the body, including cell membrane maintenance. Iron is required for red blood cell production. Magnesium helps maintain healthy bones by promoting bone mineralization and synthesis of new bone matrix proteins.

It’s good for your heart and your gut

The American Heart Association claims dark chocolate’s intense flavonoid concentration lowers heart disease risk. Eating dark chocolate (70% cacao) once a week reduces the incidence of blocked arteries by 8%, according to a July 2020 study. Another major study published in May 2021 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating 1 oz of chocolate frequently reduced the incidence of coronary heart disease. We’re sure you’ve heard: chocolate is good for your heart. But did you know that it’s also good for your gut? Yes, it’s true! Chocolate may aid weight loss and is suitable for your gut.

May reduce hunger

Dark chocolate may help reduce hunger, which may aid weight loss. Neuroscientist Will Clower, Ph.D., wrote Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight, which discusses how dark chocolate stimulates hormones that indicate to the brain you’re full. However, eating more than the suggested daily can offset weight loss, and dark chocolate won’t counteract an unhealthy diet.
Chocolate acts like a prebiotic (not a probiotic) during digestion. Prebiotics are dietary fibers that promote the growth of healthy intestinal flora. According to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, more “good” microorganisms in your system improve food absorption and metabolism.

Dark chocolate raises good cholesterol and lowers bad

Dark chocolate is also a cholesterol-lowering food, which is why a handful of almonds, dark chocolate, and unsweetened cocoa showed a significant decline in overweight and obese participants’ LDL, or “bad” cholesterol.
The types of flavanols present in dark chocolate have been shown to reduce risk factors associated with insulin resistance. These positive effects against insulin resistance may reduce the risk of diabetes in the long run.

A couple of ounces of dark chocolate daily is plenty for health advantages. Over that, you risk weight gain from fats and calories. In addition, chocolate contains caffeine, a stimulant that can temporarily raise blood pressure. If you already have high blood pressure, the caffeine in chocolate will likely increase your blood pressure to a greater degree than if you have normal blood pressure.

I know this all seems too good to be true, so talk to your doctor and dig into some good research below.

References:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-health-benefits-dark-chocolate#TOC_TITLE_HDR_9

https://health.clevelandclinic.org/dark-chocolate-health-benefits/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/dark-chocolate