If you’d asked anyone about the health benefits of chocolate twenty years ago, they would probably have laughed at you. Chocolate was seen as the cause of many health issues from acne to obesity. But recently – and coinciding with the rise in popularity of artisan chocolate – there have been more and more scientific studies that prove that chocolate not only isn’t bad, but that it can actively improve your health and even help you live longer. Believe it or not, chocolate is actually quite good for you!
We want you to be able to decide for yourself, so we’ve collected some of the specific health claims related to chocolate, complete with their sources.
But before we do that please note that nearly all of these claims relate to high cocoa content dark chocolate. Too much sugar and saturated fat in your diet is still a bad thing, and in most cases, there is a balance between the health benefits of the cocoa and the negative effects of the added sugar and milk powder. Most of the chocolate we feature in Cocoa Runners is high in cocoa solids and low in sugar, meaning that when consumed in moderation, you should get the maximum benefit.
Anyway – the claims:
Chocolate – specifically cocoa – is high in flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants. Cocoa Powder can contain up to ten percent of its weight in flavonoids, which have been linked to a reduction in coronary heart disease and stroke. Antioxidants are compounds that protect against so-called free radicals – molecules which accumulate in the body over time that can damage cells and are thought to play a role in heart disease, cancer and the ageing process. Many recent studies have shown links between a small daily chocolate intake and improved cardiovascular and heart health, although research is still ongoing into the benefits of antioxidants.
Research shows that cocoa – a naturally polyphenol-rich food – can be associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke in much the same way as fruit and vegetables are! Intervention studies strongly suggest that cocoa has several beneficial effects on cardiovascular health, including the lowering of blood pressure, and the improvement of vascular function and glucose metabolism. Several potential mechanisms through which cocoa might exert its positive effects have been proposed; among them activation of nitric oxide synthase, increased bioavailability of nitric oxide as well as antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
One recent study indicated that bacteria in the stomach ferment chocolate into useful anti-inflammatory compounds that are good for the heart and reduce the death rate in heart attack survivors.
It’s long been known that a key chemical compound in chocolate – theobromine – has a stimulant effect on the brain similar to that of caffeine. More recently studies have shown that theobromine can stimulate the release of endorphins, giving a sense of well-being similar to the feelings we experience when in love.
Contrary to what you might expect, recent research suggests that theobromine is also actually good for your teeth, and acts to harden tooth enamel more effectively than fluoride!
A parting note on the importance of moderation.
The one thing that most of the studies listed here have in common is that they recommend a small daily intake of quality chocolate. To get the maximum benefit, you should avoid chocolate that has excess sugar and vegetable fats, and – most importantly of all – you should consume chocolate in moderation. At Cocoa Runners, we put a great deal of thought into this when creating our monthly tasting club.
We think that four bars per month not only lets you sample a fantastic range of the world’s best chocolate, but at roughly 10g per day, is just the right amount to help maintain a balanced diet. The one thing you’ll notice with high quality chocolate is that you simply won’t need as much of it as you would with cheaper chocolate. The higher cocoa content means you can get the same lift – and all the health benefits – in a couple of squares, that you would in a whole bar of cheaper confectionery chocolate.
So whether you choose Cocoa Runners or not, the message is simple. Eat chocolate in moderation and stick to the good stuff!