What's The Deal With Chocolate?

Chocolate often gets such a bad rap as we’re often focusing on the ultra-refined, high sugar, confectionary which stare at us from every corner of life. However, if we strip it back to cocoa and look at the health benefits of dark chocolate we may just find that it can fit nicely into our healthy balanced diet. Much like anything though, we should highlight that moderation is key!

Why Dark Chocolate?
Dark chocolate has a much higher percentage of cocoa which is a great source of polyphenols (specifically flavanols). Flavanols have antioxidant properties which means they limit free radicals in the body. Free radicals are a natural by-product of digestion, exercise and exposure to pollutants, they contribute to cell damage and cell death. Dark chocolate has also been associated with improved vascular function, reducing blood pressure and supporting heart health due to its polyphenol and theobromine content. Additionally, cocoa is also rich in magnesium which among it’s 600+ roles, plays a key role in muscle and nerve relaxation and energy production. Due to the higher cocoa content dark chocolate is also typically lower in sugar making it a healthier alternative to the milk varieties. Along with magnesium, cocoa provides sources of calcium and iron too which are of course important for bone health and transporting oxygen around the body.

For those who are particularly sensitive to caffeine it’s important to be aware that dark chocolate does contain caffeine and therefore too much can impact stress and anxiety Additionally, if you struggle with sleep  you may want to consider should avoiding dark chocolate in the evenings. Otherwise, consuming dark chocolate throughout the afternoon is a great way to manage blood sugar levels and reduce sugar cravings. Between 20-30g is an ample portion size, as dark chocolate is more bitter than milk/white chocolate it’s often harder to overeat.

Other benefits of dark chocolate include:

  1. Supporting mood

Chocolate contains an amino acid known as tryptophan which is required for the production of serotonin (also known as the happy hormone). It really is no wonder you feel a little bit happier after a few squares of chocolate!

  1. Increased alertness

Cocoa contains a combination of caffeine and theobromine (a natural chemical compound) and when combined caffeine and theobromine block the uptake of adenosine. Adenosine is a neurotransmitter which is released slowly throughout the day and contributes to sleepiness. When adenosine uptake is blocked, tiredness is delayed and alertness is increased. 

  1. Improved cognitive function

Some studies have suggested that chocolate has been associated with a lower risk in cognitive decline. However, these studies are correlational which makes it difficult to conclude that chocolate will have a direct impact on cognitive function but it’s still an interesting and promising theory! This may also be due to the role of caffeine and theobromine and their effects on alertness as mentioned above.

  1. Gut Support
    Chocolate is a source of polyphenols which has been associated with improved gut profile and supporting a healthy gut lining! Definitely sounds like a winner to us!

There you have our explanation as to why we think consuming a little bit of dark chocolate in your diet can actually be beneficial for your overall health! Remember the important word which is MODERATION!