10 Amazing Benefits of Chocolate

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated -

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The health benefits of chocolate include active heart function, appetite control, improved memory, mood elevation, treating cough and cold, smooth functioning of the nervous system, and stress relief. It also helps to improve vision, increase energy, protect sunburn, and cure diarrhea.

What is Chocolate?

Chocolate is a sweet, brown preparation of roasted or ground Theobroma cacao seeds. It is found in liquid, paste, or solid block form. The three essential components of chocolate are cocoa (scientific name – Theobroma cacao L.), milk, and sugar. It’s equally dear to the young and the old and to men and women and this mouth-watering treat, which has been around for more than 3000 years, can be very beneficial for your health.

Nutrition Facts of Chocolate

Chocolate is high in calories and contains carbohydrates, sugar, and fats, along with some amount of protein. It is a rich source of vitamin B12, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin E and minerals such as phosphorus, manganese, and zinc. It also contains calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron. Chocolate, especially the dark chocolate variety made from cocoa beans, is packed with a wide variety of powerful antioxidants like flavonoids and polyphenols.

Nutrition Facts

Chocolate, dark, 45- 59% cacao solids
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]0.97
Energy [kcal]546
Protein [g]4.88
Total lipid (fat) [g]31.28
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]61.17
Fiber, total dietary [g]7
Sugars, total [g]47.9
Calcium, Ca [mg]56
Iron, Fe [mg]8.02
Magnesium, Mg [mg]146
Phosphorus, P [mg]206
Potassium, K [mg]559
Sodium, Na [mg]24
Zinc, Zn [mg]2.01
Thiamin [mg]0.03
Riboflavin [mg]0.05
Niacin [mg]0.73
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.04
Vitamin B-12 [µg]0.23
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]2
Vitamin A, IU [IU]50
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.54
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]8.1
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]18.52
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]9.54
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]1.09
Fatty acids, total trans [g]0.11
Cholesterol [mg]8
Caffeine [mg]43
Sources include : USDA

Health Benefits of Chocolate

The health benefits of chocolate include the following:

Reduces Heart Risks

Consuming chocolate reduces cardiovascular risks by one-third. Stearic acid, in spite of being a saturated fatty acid found in cocoa, does not contribute to cholesterol levels and can reduce the possibility of heart attacks and atherosclerosis which is caused by inflammation of arteries. Cocoa is also known to reduce the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase the levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. The antioxidant properties of the flavonoids also protect the heart against damages inflicted by the free radicals.

Appetite Control

Chocolate’s higher variant, dark chocolate is also known to suppress appetite. Consuming dark chocolate gives a feeling of being full which helps avoid overeating.

Maintains the Nervous System

A study suggests that epicatechin and flavonoids, compounds present in dark chocolate, may help protect the brain from strokes. These compounds are also found to be helpful in lowering the risk of nervous disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease as per a study.

Treats Cough & Cold

Cocoa, due to vitamin-C, alkaloids, and flavonoids present in it, gives relief from coughs and colds. The fatty acids such as stearic acid, palmitic acid, and oleic acid in it provide relief from a sore throat, continuous coughing and colds.

Manages Diabetes

As per a study published by the Clinical Nutrition journal, moderate consumption of chocolate may potentially reduce the risk of diabetes. However, further research is required to confirm these findings. Another study by the Journal of Community Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives indicates that cocoa may also have therapeutic properties in preventing cardiovascular problems in people with diabetes.

Antidepressant

Cocoa contains caffeine which is an alkaloid, theobromine, and phenylethylamine (an amine, particularly known to be anti-depressant) all of which are stimulant in nature. They are very effective mood elevators and antidepressants.

Reduces Stress

Cocoa contains tryptophan, an amino acid which has relaxing effects. This has soothing and refreshing effects in cases of tension and stress.

Regulates Blood Pressure

Flavonoids in cocoa contain polyphenols like catechins, epicatechins, and procyanidins, which have been seen to increase nitric oxide levels in the blood, which helps in maintaining proper blood pressure. Nitric oxide helps to prevent the thickening of the blood and maintaining fluidity, thereby decreasing pressure on the arteries and veins and finally regulating blood pressure.

On the other hand, in case of people suffering from low blood pressure, stimulants like caffeine and theobromine, as well as the sugar present in chocolate, helps elevate blood pressure to correct levels.

Improves Oxidation

Polyphenols like catechins, epicatechins, and procyanidins present in cocoa are very good antioxidants. They minimize the effects of free radicals and heal the damage already caused by these dangerous cellular byproducts.

Fetal Growth

Consuming chocolate during pregnancy not only elevates the mood of the mother but also helps to pass on the happiness to the fetus. Studies show that it has a positive effect on the growth and health of the newborn.

Higher Intelligence

Chocolate makes you more awake and alert, which indirectly also aids in increasing intelligence. Flavonoids boost the blood flow to the brain. A study says, feeding chocolate to your child during exams would increase your child’s math solving abilities.

Improves Vision

It’s not only carrots that improve your eyesight. Chocolate boosts vision by increasing the blood flow to the brain and retina.

Improves Energy Levels

Fatty acids like stearic acid and palmitic acid (both saturated) and oleic acid (unsaturated) help put on weight and give energy, without the risk of accumulating cholesterol, as far as pure cocoa is concerned. When cocoa is made into chocolate, the amount of cholesterol you get depends on the type of milk (toned, semi-toned or full cream) and milk products (butter, milk solids) used in it and the exercises you do. The sugar in chocolate also gives energy and relaxes the body.

Acts as a Prebiotic

High flavonoids present in chocolates increase the good bacteria in the gut. This helps in the better breakdown of food, ultimately increasing the elimination of toxic waste from the body.

Relieves Sunburn

The presence of flavonoids increases skin density and thickness. It also helps to reduce the effect of UV rays on the skin, thus, protecting you from sunburn. Chocolate also guarantees a well-hydrated healthy skin, which doubles up as an anti-aging formula.

Gives Relief from Diarrhea

Cocoa, due to its alkaloids, has been traditionally used against diarrhea. A study confirms this benefit as it found that the flavonoids in the cocoa bind to a protein that regulates the fluid secretion in the intestine, ultimately regularizing the bowel movement.

Anticancer Potential

Cocoa beans are rich in flavanols, a type of antioxidant known to minimize cell damage, which could keep cancer at bay. To explore the anticancer benefits of chocolate, the American Cancer Society recommends trying dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa, in small amounts.

Natural Aphrodisiac

Theobromine and phenethylamine are two compounds that are supposed to be aphrodisiac in nature and may be due to their stimulating properties. Further studies are needed to confirm the findings.

Storehouse of Minerals

Cocoa is also rich in minerals like iron (good for the blood), calcium (good for bones), magnesium (cures acidity and improves digestion), copper (disinfectant), and potassium (regulates blood pressure).

Side-effects of Chocolate

Avoid intake of chocolate in the following conditions:

  • Less physical activity: Chocolates with lots of milk cream, butter, and sugar are not recommended for obese people or for those who participate in very little physical activity. Furthermore, it is good for athletes and hard toilers.
  • On medication: The caffeine in chocolate neutralizes other drugs (particularly homeopathic medicines). So, avoid it when on medication.
  • Sensitivity to caffeine: Caffeine side effects include sleeplessness and nervousness. Cocoa is also addictive due to the presence of caffeine and other alkaloids and amines.

Consuming chocolate can also cause:

  • Low sugar levels: Eating too much dark and sugar-free chocolate can drop sugar levels in the blood to alarming levels and can cause fatigue.
  • Physical Distress: The alkaloids can cause headaches, migraines, neurotic disturbances, allergies, and constipation.
  • Lead Poisoning: Cocoa may also lead to lead poisoning in the long run, as cocoa beans absorb lead.

Consuming it with milk reduces the above discussed adverse effects to a great extent, but not completely. Cocoa can be dangerous for some pets, so don’t eat it indiscriminately or leave it lying around the house. Consider having one of many different types of chocolates delivered to you, or get some from almost any store around!

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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