3 Surprising Effects of Eating Dark Chocolate, According to Science

Alyssa Atkinson

These are the ones you need to know.

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I have always had a sweet tooth. When I was a little girl, my dinner plate filled with pasta and vegetables, an avocado sandwich, veggie pizza, or whatever else I was served on that particular evening was simply a means to an end.

I knew that if I ate all my vegetables and finished at least some of my meal, I would usually be rewarded with some sort of dessert. Honestly, the dessert was the only part I cared about.

Some of my favorite desserts included ice cream, peanut butter cookies, fudgy chocolate brownies, and of course, chocolate. There were a few candy bars in particular that I enjoyed, and they all contained either peanut butter or some sort of filling (caramel, pretzel bits, etc.).

My parents used to buy the variety pack of miniature candy bars so we could have a wide array of different flavor combinations to choose from. Unfortunately, these sweet treats never made me feel my best. They were loaded with sugar, and had me bouncing off the walls until I inevitably crashed.

So, I eventually switched to eating 90 - 95 percent cocoa dark chocolate to get that rich cocoa flavor without the added sugar. As it turns out, there are actually a few surprising effects that result from eating dark chocolate that you should be aware of. Here they are.

1. Your body soaks up the following micronutrients.

When you fuel up with part of a high quality dark chocolate bar with a high cocoa content, you provide your body with a number of powerful micronutrients, including:

  • Fiber
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Copper
  • Manganese
  • Potassium
  • Phosphorus
  • Selenium
  • Zinc

Now, you might find this surprising, since chocolate is generally thought of as a sugary dessert with little to no nutritional value. However, for a high quality bar, that is certainly not the case. The main key to be aware of here is that you need a high quality dark chocolate bar with a high cocoa content.

If you are worried it might be difficult to figure out the cocoa content, it actually is quite easy most of the time. Many largely produced dark chocolate bars have the cocoa percent displayed right on the front of the bar.

A vegan friendly one that I have been enjoying recently is the Lindt 95 percent cocoa dark chocolate bar. It has a very rich, dark color and an extremely bitter taste, as it has essentially no added sugar. So, I like to melt it into my oatmeal and pair it with other ingredients like peanut butter and fresh fruit, which is naturally sweet. That way, I get all the health benefits without piling on the sugar.

If you don't enjoy the bitter taste of chocolate but you want to get the micronutrients it has to offer, you could also try pairing it with some fresh fruit like strawberries or bananas.

2. Dark chocolate provides you with the following.

On top of key vitamins and minerals, dark chocolate can provide you with one powerful health booster - antioxidants.

In fact, one study showed that:

"cocoa and dark chocolate had more antioxidant activity, polyphenols and flavanols than any other fruits tested, which included blueberries and acai berries"

Not only that, but in general, dark chocolate is:

"loaded with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants. These include polyphenols, flavanols and catechins, among others."

Surprisingly, dark chocolate is one of the most beneficial antioxidant boosters you can consume, even more so than the fresh fruits and berries that typically come to mind.

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3. Dark chocolate promotes heart health in this way.

When I was a young child, I did not realize that there were many factors that can contribute to various deadly diseases, including heart disease. I always assumed that diseases were hereditary or completely random.

While there are many contributing factors that play a role in disease development, there is no denying that diet is one of them.

Although no one knows exactly how your diet will effect your health and longevity, I think most people would prefer to optimize their diets for disease prevention and protection.

As it turns out, studies have linked dark chocolate consumption to greater heart health. In fact, Harvard Health states:

"Studies suggest a link between high cocoa or chocolate intake of 6 grams daily (1-2 small squares) and a reduced risk of heart disease and mortality, possibly in part by reducing blood pressure and inflammation."

Now, I do think it's worth noting that moderation is still key, no matter how healthy a food might be. Everyone should strive to eat a balanced diet with a lot of variety, and Harvard Health does state that dark chocolate is caloricly dense, and therefore should not be consumed in excess.

Since a little bit is all you need to reap the benefits, you have plenty of room for a wide variety of other heart healthy foods in your diet as well, which will likely provide you with many other micronutrients that dark chocolate doesn't neccessarily contain.

Final Thoughts

It is crazy to think that a few simple food swaps can improve your overall health in very meaningful ways. If you are used to eating super sugary treats at the end of a long work day, you could try changing things up and eating a little bit of dark chocolate instead. It might satisfy your sweet tooth and help you avoid consuming too much sugar right before bed. Of course, it will also provide you with a ton of nutrients like the ones discussed in this article.

Now that I fuel my body with more intention, I understand that every healthy food source has something unique to offer, and the cocoa found in dark chocolate is just one concrete example of that. I appreciate the ability to optimize my health while still enjoying some of my favorite treats, like dark chocolate, muffins, brownies, and much more.

When you focus on the quality of food you put into your body, you truly can boost your mood, energy levels, how you feel each day, and ultimately, your health.

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Ohio U XC/Track alum. I love to run. I blog about food, health, fitness, lifestyle, etc. Personal Blog - nomeatfastfeet.com | Electrical and Computer Engineering Grad.

Raleigh, NC
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