Chocolate might taste sinfully sweet, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with indulging in this dessert food. In fact, eating dark chocolate especially could be really good for you — it has surprising health benefits, including everything from cancer prevention to better eyesight.
Most of these benefits come exclusively from cocoa, meaning that the darker the chocolate, the healthier it will be. Popular chocolate candies, like the kinds you always hoped for while trick-or-treating, are often made of less actual chocolate and more added milk and sugar. These foods, while definitely delicious, unfortunately don’t have the same benefits.
There are dark chocolate bars out there, though, that have much less added sugar and other ingredients. They often list the percentage of cocoa used in their production — the higher the percentage, the darker the chocolate.
Eating a few squares of dark chocolate in the middle of a long day can go a long way, and not just because chocolate tastes so good. The healthful compounds in dark chocolate can improve many aspects of your mental and physical health. So if you can’t resist dark chocolate’s temptation, here are 20 health reasons you really don’t have to.
Chocolate is a mood booster
It’s not just because it tastes good that eating chocolate makes you happy. Studies show that eating dark chocolate actually works chemically to improve your mood. Dark chocolate contains compounds that stimulate endorphins, the same compounds that are released after you exercise or laugh. If you need a pick-me-up, you could always do one of those things — or you could break off a square of quality dark chocolate and enjoy.
Chocolate could help prevent cancer
Dark chocolate, like wine, fruit, and coffee, contains powerful antioxidants. These molecules fight against free radicals, decreasing your risk of cancer. Of course, chocolate isn’t the only food that can help reduce your risk. But it’s certainly one of the more fun ones. Just make sure it’s dark chocolate you’re snacking on: The higher the percentage of cacao, the better the cancer-fighting benefit.
Chocolate could lower your risk of diabetes
This dessert food could actually help to prevent diabetes, unlike some sugary options that can increase your risk. According to a study from the University of Maine, people who eat dark chocolate at least once a week had a lower prevalence of diabetes and a significantly lower risk four to five years later.
Chocolate could improve your eyesight
You could eat carrots or some other vegetable to help preserve your eyesight. But chocolate could do the trick, too! According to some studies, the antioxidants in rich dark chocolate can literally enhance your vision.
Chocolate can help you fight depression
It won’t replace your antidepressants, but eating a little dark chocolate (or another food that combats depression and anxiety) when you’re feeling down could actually be a good idea. Dark chocolate can help your body to produce more serotonin. Serotonin can make you feel happier — people who suffer from depression often don’t produce enough of it.
Chocolate is good for your heart
Antioxidants found in dark chocolate can prevent hardening of the arteries, therefore reducing your chances for heart disease. Show yourself a little love and buy yourself a treat — your heart will thank you!
Chocolate could lower your cholesterol
Dark chocolate is one of a few “rich” foods that are actually good for your cholesterol count. Chocolate contains cocoa butter, which provides the body with healthy amounts of saturated fat. The compounds work to decrease the bad cholesterol and increase the good cholesterol in your body, improving your overall count over time.
Chocolate is good for your brain
Eating more chocolate is a smart idea, in part because it can actually make you smarter. The flavonoids in cocoa can help prevent cognitive decline, according to some studies. Dark chocolate also has healthy fats, which are thought to help with improving brain function.
Chocolate has protein and fiber
Both protein and fiber help keep you feeling full and satisfied. Luckily for chocolate lovers, dark chocolate has a good amount of both. That’s part of why eating dark chocolate will feel more satisfying than eating another sugary treat. Save the iconic dessert foods for a special occasion and indulge in dark chocolate when you want a sweet yet satisfying snack.
Chocolate is a superfood
“Superfood” might sound like a meaningless buzzword, but superfoods are called as such because they’re filled with so many nutrients. Dark chocolate is no exception — in a square of dark chocolate, there’s fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, and more. It’s also chock-full of antioxidants.
Chocolate tastes really good
And that’s a completely valid health reason you should eat it. Seriously — food that tastes good is actually better for you. The more you enjoy a food, the more nutrients you’re able to absorb when you digest. So go ahead and enjoy every bite!
Chocolate is good for your gut health
What do dark chocolate and Greek yogurt have in common? Both of them have gut-healthy probiotics. Probiotics are the good bacteria in your gut; adding more of them can help regulate digestion and increase absorption of nutrients. Chocolate has prebiotics, too — which feed the good bacteria you already have.
Chocolate prevents cavities
The chocolate candies made with lots of added sugar aren’t going to have the same effect. (Sorry, Hershey’s.) But the low-sugar, high-cocoa kinds can actually protect your teeth from decay. Cocoa beans contain antibacterial compounds that prevent plaque buildup and the formation of biofilms where cavity-causing bacteria can thrive. Dentists love the stuff — keeping it off their list of foods they won’t touch.
Chocolate is good for your skin
Hold on. But doesn’t chocolate make you break out? Too much chocolate candy can have that effect. But it’s not actually the chocolate that’s causing pimples. It’s probably the sugar. Cocoa, one of the main ingredients in dark chocolate and cocoa butter cosmetic products, can increase circulation to your skin, therefore boosting natural hydration. One study showed that eating cocoa for 12 weeks reduced moisture loss in skin by 25 percent.
Chocolate can help lower your blood pressure
In a randomized control trial, regular consumption of cocoa resulted in a lowered blood pressure over time. Unlike some indulgent foods that can send your blood pressure through the roof, dark chocolate can help to calm things down.
Chocolate can lower your risk of stroke
Okay, what can’t chocolate do? This superfood can also help reduce your risk of a stroke, according to a recent review of studies. The researchers’ results suggest you should eat somewhere around six or fewer servings per week to receive these benefits — but if you eat more than that, we won’t tell.