Chocolate is a popular treat enjoyed around the world. Its rich taste and versatility makes it a common addition to desserts and gifts. But is chocolate good for you? There seems to be conflicting information about chocolate and health. This article will spotlight the health benefits of chocolate in recognition of World Chocolate Day, which is on July 7th.
Where Does Chocolate Come From?
Chocolate starts with the cocoa bean. Cocoa beans are found inside the fruit of cacao trees, which grow along the equator. These valuable beans come from West Africa, South and Central America, and Asia. Cocoa is extracted from the bean and used to create the various chocolate products we know and love like chocolate bars, candies, cakes and pastries, chocolate chips, and more.
Plant-based Ingredients in Chocolate
Is chocolate plant-based? Look at the ingredients in your favorite chocolate to be sure. The plant-based ingredients in chocolate include cocoa, cocoa butter, sugar, lecithin, and vanilla. If you are following a plant-based diet and want to stick to only plant ingredients, avoid chocolate products that contain whey, casein, or milk solids.
Is Chocolate Good for You?
Dark chocolate is good for you because it’s made with pure cocoa, which contains a high amount of antioxidants. Antioxidants protect our bodies’ cells from damage and can reduce the risk of health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.
Chocolate is Good for Your Cardiovascular Health
A study looked at the frequency of chocolate consumption and heart health. Results showed that people who consumed a higher amount of chocolate were at reduced risk of future heart disease. The study followed up with participants after an average of 11 years and found that the group who ate chocolate more often was associated with lower rates of heart disease and stroke.
Another study indicated heart health benefits with moderate intake of chocolate – or 1-3 servings per week. This same study linked the heart health benefit to the presence of flavanols, components in cocoa such as epicatechin, catechin, and procyanidins that protect the heart and keep it healthy.
Chocolate is Good for Your Cognitive Function
Cocoa, and specifically flavanols, are associated with improvements in cognitive function. A study looked at the link between cocoa flavanol consumption and cognitive performance in the elderly who had no preexisting cognitive dysfunction. Participants drank cocoa beverages with varying levels of flavanols and evaluated their mental performance using standardized tests.
Results showed that participants who consumed high and intermediate cocoa flavanol amounts showed improvements in test results. Those consuming the low flavanol drink did not. This same study also showed improvements in participants’ blood pressure and cholesterol. This study suggests that regular and moderate intake of cocoa flavanols may be associated with improved cognitive function and, like previous studies noted, heart health.
Chocolate is Good For You Because It Reduces Blood Pressure and Insulin Resistance
Dark chocolate is linked with a reduction in blood pressure and insulin resistance. A study compared the effects of antioxidant-rich dark chocolate or antioxidant-free white chocolate on high blood pressure. Participants that consumed 100 grams of dark chocolate daily had reduced blood pressure and insulin resistance. These benefits are attributed to the flavonol content in dark chocolate which improved insulin sensitivity.
To summarize, dark chocolate can be good for you, and when its ingredients do not contain whey, casein and milk solids, it is a plant-based food. Choose chocolate that contains at least 60% cocoa to maximize your intake of flavonols and benefit the health of your heart and brain, and reduce the risk of diabetes.
You only need to consume a moderate amount of dark chocolate to reap the health benefits. If you are a chocolate lover, it is a great addition to a healthy and balanced plant-based diet.
Are you a chocolate lover? What are some ways you incorporate chocolate in your plant-based diet? Let us know in the comments section below!
The content of this article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Edible IQ urges you to seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition. Edible IQ advises you to never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the Website.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or local emergency service immediately. Edible IQ does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the website. Edible IQ does not guarantee the accuracy of information on the Website and reliance on any information provided by Edible IQ is solely at your own risk.