When a person is asked for their favorite chocolate, it’s often ‘milk chocolate’; the chocolate that is adored by the majority of Americans. Ironically, disliking dark chocolate means disliking the abundant chocolate flavor. Milk chocolate is creamy and adds sweetness with a light chocolate flavor. In the end, it could be said that liking milk chocolate means liking the creamy and light chocolate flavor.
Despite being less popular, dark chocolate is extremely beneficial for the human body. It contains several compounds that possess antioxidant properties, such as flavanols and polyphenols. Antioxidants prevent oxidative stress which refers to the damage that excessive amounts of free radicals, or unstable molecules, inflict on cells and tissues in the body.
Our human body loses its ability to combat the effects of free radicals as we age. This results in more free radicals, cell damage, and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress contributes to the natural aging process. As time passes, a variety of diseases begin to develop including, heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and eye disease.
Additionally, dark chocolate contains compounds with anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce inflammation in the body. Although inflammation is part of the body’s natural immune response to harmful substances, chronic inflammation can damage cells and tissues and may increase the risk of some health conditions, including some types of cancer.
A small study from 2018 involving five healthy people examined the effects of dark chocolate on the immune system. The results suggested that consuming large amounts of 70-percent dark chocolate affects the activity of genes that regulate the immune response.
Most important of all, dark chocolate improves brain function. Eating dark chocolate may improve brain function and help prevent neurodegenerative conditions, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. A small 2018 study suggests that the flavanols present in dark chocolate enhance neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself, particularly in response to injury and disease.
Studies recommend 20–30 grams of dark chocolate per day. Dark chocolate with higher percentages of cacao solids typically contains less sugar but more fat. Even with all of these benefits, one should keep in mind that dark chocolate is high in fat and calories, so consumption in moderation is key. Remember, no one food is beneficial when taken over the recommended amount.
Dark chocolate: Health benefits, nutrition, and how much to eat