The Health Benefits Of Craft Chocolate
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.
Here at Cocoa Runners we’re not health experts and don’t claim to be. But we have been watching recent research with interest and collected some of the specific health claims relating to chocolate on this page and presented them here with their sources. We recommend reading up for yourself and making up your own mind.
But before you do that, there is one point that should be noted. 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.
The Health Claims
Chocolate – specifically cocoa – is high in flavanols, which are powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, with known mechanisms to benefit the brain and cardiovascular health. Cocoa Powder can contain up to 10% 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, which are molecules that accumulate in the body over time that can damage cells and are thought to play a role in heart disease, cancer and the aging process.
Many recent studies have shown links between a small daily chocolate intake and improved cardio-vascular and heart health, although research is still ongoing into the benefits of antioxidants.
It is also been found and suggest that high % chocolate and cacao has positive effects on stress levels, inflammation, mood, memory and immunity.
Several studies have shown that eating a small, regular amount of chocolate may help to reduce blood pressure.
Other Heart Benefits
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.
Type 2 Diabetes
One recent study showed that the flavanoids in chocolate might help prevent diabetes and obesity.
Making health claims related to cancer is – and will always be – controversial, but some studies have indicated that there may be a link between cocoa in the diet and reduced risk. One study by Spain’s Institute Of Food Science, Technology And Nutrition showed that the antioxidants in cocoa could reduce the number of aberrant cells that cause colon cancer, while other studies have shown they can reduce cell damage that can lead to tumour growth.
Research by the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii, also believe that due to their high concentration of catechins and procyanidins, cocoa and high % chocolate may have beneficial health effects against oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, risk factors for cancer and other chronic diseases.
The good fatty acids in combination with the lesser sugar proportion of dark chocolate should lower concerns about the adverse effects of cocoa products. Future nutritional trials need to assess a larger number of biomarkers that may be relevant for cancer risk, whereas epidemiologic studies require valid dietary assessment methods to examine the association of cocoa products with cancer risk in larger populations and to distinguish possible cancer protective effects of cocoa products from those due to other polyphenolic compounds.
Chocolate And The Brain
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.
The flavanols in cocoa is also believed to enhance the working memory performance and improve visual information processing. And – although suggested more so for women – consuming cocoa after moderate to intense sleep deprivation can actually counteract any cognitive impairment that might come about after a poor night’s sleep, such as less accuracy in performing tasks.
Teeth and Dental Health
Contrary to what you might expect, recent research suggests that a key component of chocolate – Theobromine – is actually good for your teeth, and acts to harden tooth enamel more effectively than fluoride.
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 – 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!