Dark Chocolate Health Benefits

My past posts on chocolate have specified that the only way to derive all the health benefits that are being touted about chocolate is to eat it raw and organic. However, as more and more science builds up, I’ve found myself in the position of having to recant that a bit. Much of the research on the benefits of the antioxidants in chocolate are not being done on the raw organic good stuff, and yet they’re still finding the health benefits to be remarkable. Dark chocolate it seems, provided it’s got a good percentage of real cocoa, will give you quite an antioxidant boost.

For example, Italian researchers have recently reported that the antioxidants found in dark chocolate may actually protect DNA from free radical damage. Writing in the British Journal of Nutrition, the researchers report that the polyphenols and catechins, antioxidant phytonutrients found in many fruits and vegetables but particularly in dark berries, green tea, wine, olive oil and chocolate, led to reduced DNA damage by 20 per cent two hours after consumption. This damage prevention may also play a role in preventing artery hardening and heart disease.

The researchers assigned two groups of subjects to consume a healthy diet for two weeks, followed by the addition of dark chocolate for one group and white chocolate for the other. They then measured the level of the chocolate based antioxidants in the blood of the subjects and measured decreases in DNA damage in blood cells. The researchers found the benefits of dark chocolate consumption happened relatively quickly, with benefits being observed only two hours after consumption. Benefits subsided after 22 hours.

“The present results are clinically encouraging especially in the field of the diet therapy of obesity, pathology related to greater incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer,” write the researchers. “In fact, dark chocolate, habitually excluded by hypoenergetic diets for its high-fat and energy content, is a sweet food that should be reconsidered: if included in controlled amounts, in a weight loss program it could have healthy effects, and could improve the compliance of patients to diet therapy.”

And as if that wasn’t enough, heart health and protected DNA isn’t the only good news for dark chocolate lovers. Another study, published in the Journal of Proteome Research back in October, found that eating 40g of dark chocolate per day for two weeks reduced levels of stress hormones in anxious people. The researchers explain the results by showing that people with higher levels of anxiety also have a different metabolic profile.

This being said, the raw organic stuff is still better for you than your average dark chocolate. The less processed something is, the more intact the health-giving constituents will be. Also, remember that most dark chocolates contain sugar and should not be consumed every day as this may lead to blood sugar regulation complications. My favorite way of getting the benefits of dark chocolate while still getting whole foods is to add raw cacao powder to fruit smoothies. Banana, pineapple or even apple can add sweetness to your chocolaty smoothie without adding extraneous refined sugar.

The Healthy Foodie is Doug DiPasquale