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Can chocolate be good for you?

Can chocolate be good for you?

By Liz Blike, RD

Oct 10, 2019

Updated Nov 17, 2023

5 min read

Can chocolate be good for you

There’s no way your favorite piece of smooth and creamy chocolate could be good for you. Right? You probably even associate chocolate with health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and acne. Which can be discouraging if you’re a sweet-tooth lover who’s partial to chocolate. Thankfully, there are also some wonderful health benefits to consuming chocolate. Which means your nightly piece of dark chocolate might actually be doing your health some good.

Dark chocolate or bust

When you walk down the chocolate isle, you’ll find a myriad of options and colors. These range from white chocolate, all the way to the darkest of dark chocolate. Each type will differ in its sugar, butter, and cocoa content. Lighter chocolates like milk chocolate tend to contain much more sugar and butter than a very dark chocolate. Unfortunately, those ingredients are also what can contribute to health problems like diabetes. The cocoa content of your chocolate matters. Dark chocolate has more cocoa content. Which means it has the most natural antioxidants. If you’re looking to eat chocolate purely for its health benefits, choose a dark chocolate. 

Health benefits in cocoa

The major health benefits of chocolate come from the cocoa content in the chocolate. Which means that to understand the health benefits of chocolate, you must look at what cocoa can do for your body. Cocoa is packed with powerful antioxidants, fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, just to name a few. These nutrients can:

  • Help lower your cholesterol—dark chocolate protects against the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and raises good (HDL) cholesterol levels.
  • Help prevent cognitive decline—eating chocolate with high amounts of cocoa can increase blood flow to your brain, improving your cognitive function.
  • Reduce your risk of cardiovascular and heart disease—eating dark chocolate regularly can reduce plaque buildup in your arteries.
  • Protect your skin from the sun—the flavanols in cocoa increase blood flow to your skin, helping to protect it from the sun.

Eating chocolate for health

Chocolate lovers rejoice! It’s easy to get caught up in the health claims associated with chocolate. Who doesn’t love a square (or a bar) of chocolate? But it’s essential that you take chocolate as a whole. Chocolate is heavy on calories, which means any potential health benefits could be negated if you indulge too much. Limit your chocolate consumption to one or two squares a day. Take the time to really savor those bites of chocolate so you aren’t tempted to reach for more. Choose chocolate with a higher cocoa content to really get the health benefits. Aim for dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa content. Dark chocolate bars with higher percentages of cocoa also usually have less sugar content as well.

Just because chocolate is full of sugar and fat doesn’t mean you have to give it up entirely. In fact, the cocoa content in chocolate has been shown to improve certain health markers. Choose dark chocolate and be mindful about how much you eat for the best results.