Let’s face it: Chocolate gets a bad reputation. We like to profile it as the diet-crushing, sugar-filled, guilt-inducing sweet that keeps us craving more. Although chocolate is commonly demonized, we should look at the optimistic reality of this glorious snack. Chocolate with high cocoa content has plenty of overlooked benefits that improve mental, physical and emotional health. Here are five reasons why you should be eating more chocolate.
1. It alters your mood — for the better.
We often say that chocolate is a “remedy” or “comfort” food — it can help us get over a breakup, fix a bad day or simply make us feel happier. But why is this? No, it is not just because it tastes so good. According to the Australian Academy of Science, chocolate contains a chemical called phenylethylamine (PEA), which stimulates centers in the brain that control pleasure and satisfaction. In addition, the tryptophan found in chocolate produces several substances, one of them being serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone that controls our levels of happiness (and a lack of it can cause symptoms of depression). We’re not saying you should remedy your midterm season blues by consuming two full chocolate bars in one sitting, but treating yourself to a square after some difficult studying might just boost your mood.
2. It helps with fatigue.
Here at UCSB, we remedy our fatigue and all-nighter “hangovers” with Yerba and loads of coffee. While chocolate might not pack the same punch as drinks and foods with higher caffeine content do, it can still work as a sweet pick-me-up. About one ounce of 85 percent cocoa dark chocolate contains approximately 23 milligrams of caffeine — about a fourth of the caffeine content in a cup of coffee and only five milligrams less than what’s in a regular Coca-Cola (and much less sugar, too!) If you’re looking for the right dark chocolate that tastes good and will get the job done, my personal favorite is Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate Bar. It is smooth, rich and not too bitter like most dark chocolates are.
3. It holds nutritional benefits.
Believe it or not, dark chocolate is densely packed with minerals, antioxidants and even fiber. Healthline describes a 100-gram chocolate bar as containing a large percentage of the recommended daily intake for minerals such as iron, magnesium and manganese. This same chocolate bar contains around 11 grams of fiber as well. Darker chocolates with higher cocoa contents also carry antioxidants called flavonoids, which, like many other foods with antioxidants, can help prevent a variety of diseases and keep the body healthy. While fruits and vegetables certainly contain more antioxidants, chocolate is still a great dessert choice compared to alternatives that do not provide nearly as many health benefits.
4. It keeps your heart healthy.
According to a long-term study conducted in Germany and Sweden, consuming one to two servings of dark chocolate per week, or one square of dark chocolate per day, resulted in lowered risk of cardiovascular failure and lowered blood pressure (Women’s Health). We can also accredit this health benefit to flavonoids, which positively affect the arteries and veins.
5.It prevents overeating.
Although the amount of chocolate the typical person consumes in a sitting is not high in volume, it certainly fills us up more than most snacks. The rich quality of dark chocolate, even in small amounts, provides much more satisfaction than other desserts. Since dark chocolate does not contain as much sugar as other desserts or sweeter chocolates, it satisfies cravings for both sweet and salty flavor profiles. So, instead of trying to go back for seconds, thirds and fourths (we’ve all been guilty at some point or another), dark chocolate can help prevent overindulgence and consequential overeating.
Now, don’t use this article as permission to down a pint of chocolate ice cream or inhale an entire Hershey’s bar in one sitting — that is not what we are suggesting. As with anything else, chocolate should be consumed in moderation to prevent yourself from eating too much sugar or fat. Consume wisely, pick the bars with higher cocoa content and don’t forget to savor each bite. Happy snacking!