Dark Chocolate – Benefits, Nutrition, Side Effects & more
August 11, 2023
August 11, 2023
There is absolutely nothing that a bar of good old chocolate can’t solve. This sweet treat is enjoyed by all, whether you are 5 or 50. Sold in mainly three varieties, white, Milk and Dark, all of which are equally popular among chocolate. Dark chocolate is not only a delicious treat but also offers numerous health benefits. Packed with antioxidants, it helps combat free radicals and promotes overall well-being.
However, in this article, we will be exploring the health benefits of Dark Chocolate and how it has become a familiar name in our household.
Chocolate is derived from the Cacao plant mostly found in West Africa, South America and Australia. Then it travelled to Spain, Europe and finally was introduced to the rest of the world during the time of the Industrial Revolution. Milk Chocolate gained popularity in European countries, accessible only to the elite and the royalty. Consecutively they started experimenting with dark chocolate by adding sugar, milk and honey.
However, only the 20th century brought back the reign of Dark Chocolate, promoting its numerous health benefits and nutritional value.
100 grams of Dark Chocolate having 70-85% cacao content
It is rich in antioxidants and flavonoids that can reduce inflammation, and protect cells from oxidative damage. Dark Chocolate help lower the risk of heart disease, reduce inflammation and insulin resistance, increase the diversity of the gut microbiome, and improve brain function.
To achieve these health benefits, a person needs to consume dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cacao content. The recommended dose of this sweet treat should only be limited to 30-40 grams per day.
Eating more than that could mean that one may be consuming too many calories along with a greater intake of caffeine that can cause nausea, racing heartbeat and sleeplessness.
Chocolate comes from the seeds inside the fruit of the Theobroma Cacao Tree. When harvested, the seeds of the fruit are scooped out and then fermented. They are then spread out to dry in the sun, followed by roasting and grinding them into a coarse powder.
The final product that you consider Chocolate is obtained by making this into liquor (further adding sugar or any sweeteners), grinding it again and pouring it into molds to be solidified and sold in the market. Traditionally, the entire process is labour intensive, complex and very time-consuming.
The global chocolate market is massive and has reached a value of US$ 137.599 Billion in 2019. It is growing at a CAGR of 4.78% and is expected to reach US$182.090 billion by 2025.
The process of producing this chocolate differs slightly from the rest. Though the ingredients used are the same as its other variants, that is, cocoa liquor, milk powder and sugar, the quantities may vary.
Dark chocolate differs from other varieties of chocolates primarily in the amount of cocoa solids used and the sugar content. Dark chocolate typically contains a higher percentage of cocoa solids, which gives it its intense flavor. It undergoes a more minimal processing method, retaining more of the natural cocoa flavors and antioxidants. Additionally, dark chocolate generally has a lower sugar content compared to milk or white chocolate, resulting in a less sweet and more robust taste.
Now, having a sweet tooth can bring your benefits in the form of this bittersweet treat. There has been numerous evidence-based research that proves that Dark Chocolate is very nutritious and can provide health benefits.
Let’s explore its potential benefits:
Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD) remain the primary global causes of mortality. Elevated levels of cholesterol and blood pressure are the primary contributing factors to this condition. Epidemiological evidence suggests that a diet rich in flavonoids, found abundantly in fruits and vegetables, can help prevent CVD. Similarly, the significant flavonoid content in cacao has also demonstrated a reduction in CVD risk.
The Stockholm Heart Epidemiology Program conducted a long-term study on the effects of consuming dark chocolate, revealing a lower incidence of cardiac mortality in regular consumers compared to those who had never consumed it. This implies that adequate intake of flavanols acts as a protective measure against heart disease.
An observational analysis by the Harvard School of Public Study agrees to the link between blood pressure and cacao. It talks about the medicinal profile (flavonoids) present in dark chocolate (50-70% cocoa content) that is effective in lowering blood pressure.
Flavonoids also help in stimulating endothelium (the thin membrane inside the heart and blood vessels responsible for managing vascular contraction and relaxation) to produce Nitric Oxide. The release of Nitric Oxide expands blood vessels, increases blood flow and thus reduces blood pressure. Therefore, it can be an inexpensive and effective element that regulates blood pressure in people with hypertension.
Dark Chocolate is a rich source of antioxidants. These antioxidants are responsible for preventing free radical configuration tissue damage. Free radicals are molecular species formed by the body that can be called the byproduct of metabolism to pump more blood in stressful situations.
However, chronically increasing the levels of free radicals can cause problems. Antioxidants prevent the effect of free radicals and help in defending cell damage. It is also beneficial for treating diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
A critical review indicates that the antioxidants present in this food have anti-inflammatory properties that may prevent or reduce vascular inflammation.
Other than the pleasure associated with eating it, dark chocolate is also linked to lowering the risk of depression. It is observed that consuming 24 grams or less of Dark Chocolate per day can have antidepressant effects on people.
This can relieve one from depression, with its combined presence of flavonoids (known to improve mood), theobromine (delivers energy), N-acylethanolamines (fatty acid that has euphoric effect) and Phenylethylamine (triggers dopamine).
A detailed survey was conducted by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2007-08 and 2013-14. This analysed the relation between dark chocolate and depression with 13,626 adults residing in the US.
The study concluded that the consumption of dark chocolate may be directly associated with the reduced odds of clinically relevant depressive symptoms.
Dark chocolate contains polyphenols, which is a naturally occurring compound having antioxidant properties that improve insulin resistance.
Moreover, a study published in the Appetite journal reveals that the participants who occasionally consumed dark chocolate were severely prone to the risk of developing diabetes in the next five years, as compared to participants who consumed dark chocolate at least once per week.
It not only releases happy hormones in the body but also makes your skin happy. Dark chocolate is loaded with tons of nutrients and minerals like calcium, iron, copper, magnesium, selenium, manganese, zinc and vitamins A, B1, C, D, and E.
These along with antioxidants protect your skin from UV rays, soothe blemishes and redness, increase collagen production, etc. Along with this, it has anti-inflammatory properties that relieve irritated skin.
Eating dark chocolate in moderate amounts can help in the weight loss process. It has monounsaturated fatty acids that improve metabolism and rapidly burn calories. Also, dark chocolate curbs cravings if eaten 20 minutes before a meal.
Interestingly, the magnesium and antioxidants in dark chocolate relieve pain and thus encourage one to workout. This can be an added advantage for people struggling to lose weight.
Dark chocolate contains small amounts of iron, which contributes to the prevention of anemia. Iron is essential for red blood cell formation, ensuring adequate oxygen transport in the body. Regular consumption of dark chocolate, alongside a balanced diet, can help maintain sufficient iron levels and reduce the risk of anemia.
Dark chocolate contains antioxidants that help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, which can weaken the immune system. These antioxidants, along with other beneficial compounds, can support immune cell production and activation, contributing to a stronger immune system when consumed as part of a balanced diet.
Dark chocolate offers several potential health benefits. It may prevent cardiovascular diseases, lower blood pressure, resist cell damage, treat depression, work against diabetes, shield the skin from sun damage, aid weight loss, prevent anemia, and strengthen the immune system due to its antioxidant content and other beneficial compounds. However, it’s important to consume dark chocolate in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
We give you five reasons to make dark chocolate your daily go-to dessert:
But before you reach for that chocolate in your fridge, remember that a 100-gram bar contains a whopping 546 calories. Experts recommend no more than an ounce – 28 grams – of dark chocolate a day!
Dark Chocolate improves metabolism due to monounsaturated fatty acids, prevents insulin spikes, curbs cravings, encourages exercise through its anti-inflammatory properties and magnesium content, and gives a happy high with lower stress and better sleep. However, moderation is key, as even a 100g bar contains 598 calories. Stick to no more than one ounce (28g) of dark chocolate per day for optimal benefits.
A 1-ounce serving of dark chocolate with 70% cocoa provides about 20-25 mg of caffeine. Excessive consumption of dark chocolate can increase caffeine levels in blood, causing increased heart rate, nausea, dehydration and insomnia.
Approximately 30-60 grams of dark chocolate per day is recommended quantity to be healthy. Also, people having diabetes can consult their doctor before planning to consume daily.
Moderate consumption of dark chocolate is advisable to avoid excessive caffeine intake, especially during pregnancy. High caffeine levels pose risks to the foetus, potentially causing premature delivery, low birth weight, or miscarriage. It’s crucial to monitor your intake and seek guidance from a healthcare professional to follow recommended quantities safely.
Mothers breastfeeding infants must be careful about their Dark Chocolate consumption. The caffeine in dark chocolate can transfer from the mother to the nursing baby and cause insomnia, restlessness and even rashes.
Consuming a lot of dark chocolate can also lead to the risk of slowing down the blood clotting process. It can be dangerous for people who have bleeding disorders or haemophilia.
The cocoa present in Dark Chocolate can increase pulse rate and spike blood pressure if consumed in a rather large quantity
Dark chocolate may interact with certain medications, such as those for blood thinning or MAO inhibitors. If you take any medications, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider to ensure there are no potential interactions.
Some individuals may be allergic to chocolate or specific ingredients present in dark chocolate, such as milk or nuts. If you have known allergies, read the ingredient list carefully and consult with a healthcare professional if needed.
Dark chocolate is a versatile element that pairs well and tastes delicious in both sweet and savoury foods. Here are two hearty and healthy recipes featuring Dark Chocolate.
In a small saucepan, heat the milk until just simmering. Whisk in the cocoa powder, maple syrup, and salt. Add the dark chocolate chips and vanilla extract. Next, wait till the dark chocolate is completely melted and fully combined into the mixture. Serve hot.
Dark chocolate contains a high concentration of chemical components that are biologically active and act as antioxidants. Polyphenols, flavanols, and catechins are a few examples. When paired with other foods like almonds and cocoa. Dark chocolate may help cut the risk of heart disease, reduce inflammation and insulin resistance, boost the diversity of the gut microbiota, and improve brain function, according to some research. People who want to add dark chocolate to their diet should remember that it is heavy in fat and calories, therefore moderation is essential.
While there is substantial evidence supporting the potential health benefits of dark chocolate, it’s important to exercise moderation. Consuming dark chocolate in recommended quantities can provide a range of nutrients and advantages. However, exceeding the recommended amount may have adverse effects. So, savor the indulgence of dark chocolate while being mindful of portion sizes to maximize its benefits and maintain a balanced approach to your overall diet.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is just to disperse knowledge and raise awareness. It does not intend to replace medical advice from professionals. For further information please contact our certified nutritionists Here
Yes, Dark Chocolate has tons of nutrients like iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, Copper, Vitamin A, B1, C, D and K. These nutrients are great for heart health, regulate blood pressure, aid weight loss etc.
Dark Chocolate also has varieties like bittersweet or semi-sweet. However choosing a Dark Chocolate that has a higher percentage of cocoa, ideally 70% and above is best in terms of nutritional content.
Yes, you can have Dark Chocolate every day, if consumed in moderation. You can consume up to 20-30 grams of Dark Chocolate without worrying about any side effects.
Choosing a Dark Chocolate with a high cocoa content of 70% and above is considered healthy as compared to the others.
Research suggests that the monounsaturated fatty acids present in Dark Chocolate improve metabolism and help you burn calories. So, yes, Dark Chocolate can aid in weight loss.
No, research studies suggest that flavonoids present in dark chocolate are known to regulate blood pressure in people with Hypertension.
Dark Chocolate can help in maintaining heart health, losing weight, regulating blood pressure, treating depression, preventing skin damage etc.
There are a few side effects of consuming excess Dark Chocolate. It can increase heart rate, cause anxiety and irritability, nervousness, and even dehydration.
Any Dark Chocolate having 70% and above of cacao content is considered healthy.
20-30 grams or 2-3 blocks of Dark Chocolate per day is known to be a safe quantity that can be consumed by people.
You can eat Dark Chocolate at any time of the day. However, if your goal is to lose weight, have a piece of dark chocolate 30 minutes before your meal or as a midday snack.
No, if consumed in moderation, dark chocolate contains tons of nutrients and it provides various health benefits.
If you are on a strict diet you can eat up to 28 grams of dark chocolate each day.
100 grams of dark chocolate a day is a fairly large amount that will have 598 calories and can be exceptionally unhealthy.
About 65% of the calories in dark chocolate are from fats and hence higher in calories.
No, Dark Chocolate is rich in calories. Every 100 gram of Dark chocolate has 598 calories.