Jane Barnes PhD BSc PGDip | Registered Nutritional Therapist and Health Coach
I sometimes think that I spend a lot of my life warning people about the dire consequences of eating the foods that they love and encouraging them to give up many of their regular indulgences……..so I am overjoyed to report the good news ‘Chocolate is officially good for you!’.
There is a caveat (yes, I know, there is always a catch) the chocolate must be dark chocolate containing at least 85% cocoa solids or more.
A recent randomized controlled trial (1) divided healthy subjects into 3 groups. One group ate 30g of 85% dark chocolate every day for 3 weeks. A second group ate 70% dark chocolate, and a control group ate no chocolate (spoiler alert - no wonder they turned out to be less happy!).
The 85% group (unlike the other two groups) significantly improved their mood scores when assessed using a standard mental health questionnaire and they also had significant changes in their gut microbes which may have explained the difference.
This study just adds to a long list of the purported health benefits for high cocoa content dark chocolate which contains several compounds (flavonoids, phytonutrients, polyphenols) that are commonly found in foods labelled ‘superfoods’ by marketing departments the world over.
Studies have described blood sugar modulating, cholesterol-lowering, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects as well as being linked to a lower risk of developing high blood pressure (2)(3).
Natural, unsweetened raw cocoa is one of the most powerful dietary antioxidants as assessed by the ORAC value (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) and walks all over superfoods we traditionally think of as the cancer fighters and heart helpers:
USDA Database for the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC)
Now I don’t want to rain on the parade of those who enjoy milk chocolate, but I’m afraid that the evidence suggests that the high sugar and lower cocoa content does away with all the above benefits. As an ex-milk chocolate fiend, myself, you might like to consider following in my footsteps and undertaking some progressive training to increase your enjoyment of dark chocolate. It takes around 3 weeks for your taste buds to adapt to a big dietary change, so start by swapping your milk chocolate for 65% and gradually work your way up until you get to 85% or more.
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