“Chocolate will rot your teeth and make you fat!” I am sure you have heard this several times in your life, whether it is from your Mother, your Dentist, a Best Friend, or the Media. Why does chocolate have such a bad reputation? Most likely because it tastes so good and as with all good things in life, many of them are said to be bad for us. Surprisingly, chocolate is actually one of those good things in life that are actually good for us! Unfortunately, many of us abuse it, and therefore, chocolate gets that bad reputation. A hamburger is actually good for you, once in a while, but if you overdo it, you can suffer the consequences of gaining weight. As with everything, moderation is the key to being able to live a healthy, happy and productive life, regardless of the substance or food being consumed.
So back to chocolate, how is it beneficial to me? Chocolate has many health benefits that both men and women can take advantage of. First, let’s take a look at chocolate in history. Over 2,000 years ago, the lovely sweet taste of the cacao tree, was discovered in the rainforests of the Americas. Ancient cultures from Mexico and South America used the cacao to make sweet drinks. This was later discovered by the Spanish, who spread the popularity of chocolate and its tastiness globally. Over time and with technology, chocolate has become one of the most desired “sweets” in society.
Other than the fact that chocolate tastes good, how can it benefit us from a health perspective? We all have heard that dark chocolate is more beneficial than milk chocolate. This is because the higher the percentage of cocoa in a bar, the higher the health benefits. When we add milk, additives, chemicals, etc., we decrease the health benefits of chocolate. With that said, darker chocolate is better for you because when producing milk or white chocolate, certain additives and chemicals are added to the ingredients list and so this reduces the benefits that the purity of chocolate offers. To put this into perspective, if you wanted to make chicken noodle soup, what recipe do you think would be more beneficial to the consumer:
- Boil organic chicken breasts, use remaining liquid for broth, add vegetables and noodles.
- Heat canned Chicken Noodle Soup over medium heat.
I think it is pretty clear. You would choose the first option, boil your own chicken, and add your own vegetables and noodles, to ensure the greatest nutritional value. This is how chocolate works. The more you process chocolate (white chocolate, milk chocolate, etc.), the more nutrients are taken out, and therefore, you lose a substantial amount of health benefits when eating processed chocolate (i.e. milk chocolate, white chocolate, etc.).
We now know that dark chocolate is the preferred chocolate to consume when looking for health benefits. But what exactly are the health benefits of chocolate? Here is a brief list of some of the amazing rewards you can receive from chocolate:
- Remember I said earlier that we hear the saying, “Chocolate will rot your teeth”? Well, it actually turns out that cacao has antibacterial agents that actually help reduce tooth decay. Again, this is when dark chocolate or chocolate in its most pure form is best for you. Adding sugar and milk to chocolate reduces its benefits.
- We have heard that chocolate is an aphrodisiac. This is somewhat true. Scientists have found that the carbohydrates in chocolate actually raise the serotonin levels in the brain, making you feel happy.
- In addition to consuming chocolate to make you feel content and happy, research has also shown that the smell of chocolate can actually make you feel relaxed.
- Dark chocolate is considered a Superfood, filled with flavonoids and theobromine, which are healthy chemicals that kill off diseases.
- Studies have shown that consuming at least 2 servings of dark chocolate a week can improve blood pressure reduce the risk of heart failure, heart attack, and stroke.
- Another recent study has shown that women who ate dark chocolate while pregnant were able to handle stress more so than those women who did not consume the sweet. Doctors also found that babies from women who ate dark chocolate while pregnant seemed happier.
- Chocolate can actually soothe the throat. One study found that chocolate had almost the same effect as codeine when it came to soothing and quieting a cough. The “feel good” chemical theobromine is thought to be responsible for this effect.
These are just a handful of the benefits chocolate can offer you. The list of health benefits from chocolate goes on and on, depending on how you consume the sweet. It is now safe to say that chocolate can come off of your “do not consume” list and put on to your “Superfoods to keep handy” list!
Amna Sheikh is a medical doctor with a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS), Bachelors in Economics and Statistics. She is also a medical writer working as a freelancer for 10+ years and she is specialized in medical, health, and pharmaceutical writing, regulatory writing & clinical research. All her work is supported by a strong academic and professional experience.