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Health Benefits of Chocolate

Updated: Dec 12, 2022

Have you always wondered if chocolate is truly "healthy"? Well, YES - in moderation. Chocolate has actually been shown to enhance mood, protect cognition, lower blood pressure, protect our heart, and much more!

How is chocolate made?

Chocolate comes from the Cacao tree. The fruit from the cacao tree is a football-shaped pod and each pod contains roughly 50 cacao beans. Once harvested, the beans are fermented anywhere from 2-8 days. The length of fermentation depends on the variety of cacao. This fermentation process alters the natural bitterness and produces the delicious chocolate flavor we know and love.

After fermentation, the beans are dried, cleaned and roasted. After roasting, the shell is removed, leaving the cacao nib. The nibs are ground into a liquid referred to as chocolate liquor and then pressed to remove excess fatty liquid, or cocoa butter. The chocolate liquor is further refined to produce cocoa solids.

*It takes approximately 500 cacao beans to make 1 lb of bittersweet chocolate*

Dark chocolate vs. milk chocolate vs. white chocolate

  • Dark chocolate consists of anywhere from 50-90% cocoa solids mixed with cocoa butter and sugar.

  • Milk chocolate contains 10-50% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, milk, and sugar.

  • White chocolate does not contain any cocoa solids, only cocoa butter, sugar, and milk.

*Some lower-quality chocolates may also add vegetable oils and artificial flavoring*

Do all Types of Chocolate have Beneficial Health Properties?

While all types of chocolate can be good for the soul, dark chocolate has the highest amount of cocoa. This means that dark chocolate contains the highest amount of nutrients compared to milk chocolate and white chocolate.

Health benefits of dark chocolate

Cocoa is naturally high in flavanols. Flavanols are active compounds found in plants that increase nitric oxide production in the body. Nitric oxide helps to relax blood vessels, increasing blood flow, thus lowering blood pressure.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at cognitive function in older adults after an 8-week trial of consuming low, intermediate, or high cocoa flavanol drinks. Those who consumed the high or intermediate cocoa flavanol drink showed significant improvements in cognitive function when compared to those in the low-cocoa flavanol group. This small study suggests that habitual intake of cocoa can potentially help to protect cognition through advanced age.

While chocolate has long been associated with happiness and enjoyment, a study published earlier this year found that participants who ate 85% dark chocolate daily maintained a better overall mood than others who ate chocolate with less cocoa or no chocolate at all. This suggests that active compounds in cocoa may have mood-enhancing effects.