My grandma always ate one piece of dark chocolate each day (tremendous self-control, I’m envious). When my uber-healthy triathlete roommate did it too, I knew there’s probably some truth to the fact that dark chocolate is not just “not bad for you” but is actually “good.” With the holiday season upon us, that means lots of tempting desserts and treats to gorge on. At the next family dinner, you can feel zero guilt reaching for anything with dark chocolate.
- What are the *actual* nutritional facts for this?
According to healthline, quality dark chocolate (so a high cocoa content) has lots of fiber and a strong percentage of the recommended daily average of iron, copper, magnesium, and other key minerals. Dark chocolate also has less sugar and fat because of the lack of milk.
- It makes you smarter?!?!
A study showed that after consuming dark chocolate for five days, there was an increase in blood flow to the brain. While it doesn’t have the amount as coffee, cocoa contains caffeine and other stimulants that improve brain performance in the short term.
- Are there different kinds?
Yes, and this is important! Buy dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% or higher. A higher percentage usually means a bitter flavor, but that’s a taste I’m willing to overcome (fun fact thanks to Huff Post: dark chocolate tastes bitter because as Americans, our tastebuds are more accustomed to need salt and sugar to make foods taste sweeter, like junk foods). There are even kinds that will have a “fair trade” label, meaning it was harvested at a fair wage and without child labor.
- It’s got flavanols (don’t worry, the definition is below)
“Flavanols are naturally-occurring compounds found in a number of commonly enjoyed foods, including apples, pears, tea, cocoa, grapes, and blueberries.” Thank you to the Mars Center for Cocoa Health Science (yes, a real place. Are they hiring? Is chocolate-tasting involved?) for putting flavanols into normal-people language, I really appreciate it. A higher consumption of flavanols is linked with reduced heart diseases because of improved blood vessel functions.
- But how much can you eat without feeling bad?
It’s recommended that you eat one to two ounces daily, or 150 calories. Hard to resist more, I know.
- Chocolate = happiness (even though we knew that already)
There’s no denying when I see a bowl of M&M’s or those mini Hershey bars, I’m thrilled. And since science backs this feeling up, it’s even better. The Australian Academy of Science published how chocolate can make you happy, and yes, it’s good to know even our friends down under love the treat as much as we do. They say that chocolate has theobromine, chemically almost identical to caffeine, anandamide, which stimulates similar parts of the brain like THC, and phenylethylamine, which activates the brain’s pleasure centers (and is the chemical released when we fall in love!).
Whether you have a roommate who brought the wonder of Ghiradelli 60% bittersweet chocolate chips into your life (like mine did) or this article is the first you’ve heard of this wondrous scientific revelation, there’s no need to hold back your taste buds next time the tasty treat calls your name.