Today is world Chocolate day! While we often think of chocolate as a treat or even something to be avoided, chocolate, specifically dark chocolate, has been associated with various health benefits, mainly due to its high content of flavonoids, which are potent antioxidants. Here are some evidence-based benefits of eating chocolate:
- Heart health: Dark chocolate has been found to improve cardiovascular health by reducing blood pressure, improving blood flow, and reducing the risk of heart disease. A meta-analysis of 19 randomized controlled trials found that consumption of flavanol-rich chocolate or cocoa powder led to a significant reduction in blood pressure levels in people with hypertension (1). Another systematic review and meta-analysis of 13 studies found that consuming dark chocolate or cocoa products reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease by 37% (2).
- Brain function: The flavonoids in chocolate may also benefit brain function. A study found that consumption of dark chocolate improved cognitive function in healthy adults (3). Another study found that consumption of cocoa flavanols improved cognitive performance and increased blood flow to the brain in older adults (4).
- Mood: Chocolate contains compounds that may improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. A randomized controlled trial found that daily consumption of dark chocolate improved mood and symptoms of depression in people with major depressive disorder (5).
- Skin health: The flavonoids in chocolate may also have benefits for skin health. A study found that consumption of cocoa flavanols improved skin hydration and reduced skin roughness and scaling in women (6).
So go ahead and enjoy a little dark chocolate today, turns out its actually beneficial to indulge a little.
- Hooper L, Kroon PA, Rimm EB, et al. Flavonoids, flavonoid-rich foods, and cardiovascular risk: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;88(1):38-50.
- Buitrago-Lopez A, Sanderson J, Johnson L, et al. Chocolate consumption and cardiometabolic disorders: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2011;343:d4488.
- Francis ST, Head K, Morris PG, Macdonald IA. The effect of flavanol-rich cocoa on the fMRI response to a cognitive task in healthy young people. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2006;47 Suppl 2:S215-220; discussion S239-242.
- Brickman AM, Khan UA, Provenzano FA, et al. Enhancing dentate gyrus function with dietary flavanols improves cognition in older adults. Nat Neurosci. 2014;17(12):1798-1803.
- Nehlig A. The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2013;75(3):716-727.
- Williams S, Tamburic S, Lally C. Eating chocolate can significantly protect the skin from UV light. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2009;8(3):169-173.