Sara Middleton via NaturalHealth365 – Dark chocolate is one of those foods that tends to go through a revolving door in the media. In one news cycle, we’re told dark chocolate isn’t a health food and is so high in calories that it should be avoided. In the next news cycle, we hear that dark chocolate actually comes with many notable health benefits.
So, which is it? The truth is, dark chocolate is generally considered to be beneficial for your physical and even mental well-being — provided you consume it in moderation. And while you don’t have to eat dark chocolate to live a healthy lifestyle, there are a few tips that will help you figure out how to choose the right dark chocolate brand if you want to add this sweet treat to your weekly diet.
Mounting Evidence Suggests Dark Chocolate Offers Multiple Health Benefits
Dark chocolate contains a high number of many healthy compounds, including antioxidants called flavonoids, as well as minerals like magnesium, zinc, and even iron. Many researchers suspect that these healthy nutrients are what give dark chocolate its impressive list of health benefits. Here are just a few of the most recent findings:
- A 2019 study involving more than 13,000 participants found that people who eat dark chocolate are less likely to be depressed. The researchers, who published their data in the peer-reviewed journal Depression and Anxiety,controlled for confounding factors like weight, marital status, ethnicity, education, household income, physical activity, smoking, and chronic health problems and still found this surprising correlation between dark chocolate and mood.
- Research out of Loma Linda University in California and presented at the Experimental Biology 2018 annual meeting showed that dark chocolate also has beneficial effects on a person’s memory, inflammation levels, and immune system (in addition to mood).
- A 2017 review published in Frontiers in Immunology found that consuming dark chocolate may have beneficial effects on blood pressure, at least in older individuals and people at higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
Surprisingly, some research has found that consuming dark chocolate may improve a person’s fasting blood sugar levels and “healthy” HDL cholesterol.
Overwhelmed by Choice? Here Are Some Tips on How to Pick the Best Dark Chocolate
If you want to enjoy some dark chocolate in your weekly diet, here are a few things to look for:
- Cocoa percentage: Make sure it contains at least 70% cocoa or more
- Sustainability and quality: If your budget and availability allow, opt for fair-trade and organic dark chocolate since this may support sustainable and ethical food practices and reduce your exposure to pesticides
- Non-alkalized chocolate: “Dutching” or alkalization is a process used by some manufacturers to reduce dark chocolate’s bitter flavor, but research suggests this can reduce the number of healthy antioxidants left over
As for how much dark chocolate you need to eat to gain its noted health benefits, there’s no specific amount. Many studies investigating dark chocolate consumption use between 20 and 30 grams (around 1 ounce) per day.
In addition, here’s a “pro tip:” Let the small piece of chocolate melt in your mouth. Don’t chew it for a longer lasting, more satisfying result.
Remember, going over that (small) amount by too much may start to negate the health benefits simply because you end up consuming too much of a good thing. So, pay attention to portion sizes, but feel free to enjoy!
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