I’m laying out everything you need to know about the nutrition of chocolate. Yes, I’m giving you permission to eat chocolate every, single, day. I know..I’m your new favorite person, right? Dark chocolate has been associated with numerous health benefits for your heart, brain, skin and more. However, not all chocolate is created equal. Before you indulge, it’s important to understand which types of chocolate are best for your health.
What are the benefits of dark chocolate?
The nutrition of chocolate is a topic I am deeply passionate about…since I am deeply passionate about chocolate! Dark chocolate composed mostly of cocoa is rich in important nutrients, including fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium and copper. While it is relatively high in saturated fat, dark chocolate also contains a good amount of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. This indulgence is packed with antioxidants including polyphenols and flavanols, and studies show that chocolate is a more potent source when compared to other antioxidant-rich foods such as fruit.
Researchers believe that the antioxidants in chocolate are responsible for numerous health benefits. Research shows that people who eat dark have lower risks of cardiovascular disease and stroke. In fact, one study showed that people who ate chocolate more than five times a week lowered their risk of heart disease by nearly 60 percent. Dark chocolate has been linked to lower levels of oxidized LDL (bad cholesterol), higher levels of HDL (good cholesterol), lower blood pressure and reduced insulin resistance. Eating dark chocolate has also been linked to improved brain function, decreased stress and improved mood. If that wasn’t enough reason to reach for a bar, studies also show dark chocolate may benefit skin health, help control appetite, improve gut health and even protect against certain types of cancer.
How to choose the right types of chocolate
If you want to reap the amazing benefits of chocolate, follow these tips:
- The darker, the better: Select a chocolate bar or chips with greater than 70 percent cacao. Remember, the cacao contains all of the health-promoting ingredients. The more of it, the more nutritious it is.
- Read ingredient labels: Skip chocolate bars containing ingredients you don’t recognize, such as fake sweeteners and other additives
- Skip added sugar: Select chocolate bars containing less than 5-8 grams of added sugar per serving. More on that here!
How much chocolate can I eat?
A recommended serving size of dark chocolate is about 1 oz per day. This is about 3 tablespoons of chocolate chips or about two squares of a chocolate bar. Remember that chocolate bars contain calorie-dense fats and added sugars. Therefore, eating too much chocolate could lead to weight gain. If you’re craving more of that chocolatey taste, consider using cocoa powder in recipes, which is low in calories and contains no fat or added sugar.
Another reason to eat chocolate in moderation especially at night is because it contains the stimulants, caffeine and theobromine. However, dark chocolate contains less caffeine than a cup of coffee, and having a small amount likely won’t give you the jitters.
Beyond the bar, how else to eat chocolate:
Here are a few other ways to enjoy dark chocolate other than eating a few squares of a bar:
- Add raw cocoa powder to boost the nutrition in your morning coffee, smoothie and baked goods
- Melt dark chocolate and drizzle over yogurt, oatmeal or ice cream
- Make your own trail mix: Mix a dark chocolate chips with 10-15 nuts of your choice and a tablespoon of unsweetened dried cherries or cranberries
- Make chocolate avocado pudding (this recipe makes two servings): Blend 1 ripe avocado, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, ¼ cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk, 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
The Bottom Line
Do your body a favor, and indulge in moderate amounts of quality dark chocolate. It’s packed with nutrition and contains antioxidants that help protect against multiple chronic diseases. Now that you have all the facts about the nutrition of chocolate, go enjoy a square of dark chocolate, knowing that you’re doing your bod some good.