Benefits of eating dark chocolate: Mood lifter healthy food good for heart or just an excuse?

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Dark chocolate


Dark chocolate&nbsp | &nbspPhoto Credit:&nbspiStock Images

Key Highlights

  • Rare is the person who may not love or crave a chocolate, at least once in a while.

  • Chocolate also contains cannabinoids, which are the molecules responsible for the high experienced from smoking dope. However, the doses are tiny and are certainly not enough to cause the kinds of addiction to chocolate that many people experience.

Frankly, who needs reasons to eat chocolate! This highly treasured food dates back to 2000 BC. At that time, the Maya from Central America, the first connoisseurs of chocolate, drank it as a bitter fermented beverage mixed with spices or wine. 

Why do you feel your mood lift after eating chocolate?


What happens next is that the psychoactive ingredients of the chocolate enter the bloodstream. The most prominent of these is theobromine, a caffeine-like molecule, which behaves as a mild stimulant. Chocolate also contains cannabinoids, which are the molecules responsible for the high experienced from smoking dope. However, the doses are tiny and are certainly not enough to cause the kinds of addiction to chocolate that many people experience. Nevertheless, the presence of stimulants may be one of the reasons why chocolate is often included in soldiers’ rations, the use of which goes back 200 years.

But for the health-conscious, the key is portion control, and yes, it must be dark chocolate. Also, dark chocolate is not the same as regular sugary chocolate in many ways and those eating it may have developed a taste for the same.

Dark chocolate is rich in:

  1. Iron
  2. Copper
  3. Magnesium
  4. Zinc
  5. Phosphorus
  6. Flavanols

Know the different chocolates:

  • Dark chocolate contains 50-90% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar; pure dark chocolate should not contain milk.
  • Milk chocolate contains anywhere from 10-50% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, milk in some form, and sugar. 
  • There may be traces of milk in some dark chocolates from cross-contamination during processing, as the same machinery is often used to produce milk and dark chocolate. 
  • Lower quality chocolates may also add butterfat, vegetable oils, or artificial colours or flavours. 
  • White chocolate does not contain any cocoa solids and is made simply of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk.

As per a report published in the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health website, these are the Benefits of consuming dark chocolate:

  1. Dark chocolate contains flavanols that may help to protect the heart. That is because its source – Cocoa is rich in flavanols – a healthy plant chemical.
  2. Dark chocolate contains up to 2-3 times more flavanol-rich cocoa solids than milk chocolate. Flavanols have been shown to support the production of nitric oxide (NO) in the endometrium (the inner cell lining of blood vessels) which helps to relax the blood vessels and improve blood flow, thereby lowering blood pressure. 
  3. Flavanols in chocolate can increase insulin sensitivity in short term studies; in the long run, this could reduce the risk of diabetes.
  4. Kuna Indians, an isolated tribe who live on the Caribbean Coast of Panama, (despite their high consumption of salt) seems to have averted hypertension due to their daily intake of cocoa beverage. They consume more than five cups daily of either home-grown or Colombian cocoa powder rich in flavanols.
  5. A Harvard study notes that the urinary levels of flavanols in the island-dwelling Kuna were significantly higher and their rates of death from heart disease, cancer, and diabetes significantly lower than their counterparts living in urban centres.

But the paper also warns against excessive consumption of Dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is high in calories (150-170 calories per ounce) and can contribute to weight gain if eaten in excess. 

Burning off the calories in a 170-calorie bar would require that you to:

  • either walk for 44 minutes 
  • or jog for 19 minutes
  • or swim for 14 minutes
  • or cycle for 23 minutes

It also contains a moderate amount of saturated fat, which can negatively affect blood lipid levels.

The flavanols appear to outweigh the risk, yet doctors advise that eating dark chocolate in modest quantities may offer the greatest health benefits.

Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a professional healthcare provider if you have any specific questions about any medical matter.

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