Is Dark Chocolate Actually Healthy?

Dark Chocolate

There is still a lot of confusion about the health benefits of dark chocolate and if we can actually consider it a healthy food. There are several detailed articles with scientific evidences out there, so this blog post will be something of a summary of pros and cons of dark chocolate with links to scientific studies.

If you are interested in a full evidence-base article, you can check it out here.

Benefits of Dark Chocolate


1) Nutrition Values

First thing that I feel should be pointed out is that the benefits of dark chocolate varies, depending on the cocoa content. General rule is the higher cocoa content, the more nutrition values it provides.

Example of nutrition values per a 100 gram of 70-85% dark chocolate bar (1):

Nutrition Values per 100 grams of 70-85% Dark Chocolate:
  • Calories: 605 (2533 kJ)
  • Carbohydrates: 46.3 g
    • Of which Dietary Fiber: 11.0 g
    • Of which Sugars: 24.2 g
  • Total Fat: 43.1 g
    • Of which Saturated Fat: 24.7 g
    • Of which Monounsaturated Fat: 12.9 g
    • Of which Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.3 g
  • Proteins: 7.9g
  • Minerals:
    • Potassium: 722 mg (21% DV)
    • Phosphorus: 311 mg (31% DV)
    • Magnesium: 230 mg (58% DV)
    • Calcium: 73.7 mg (7% DV)
    • Sodium: 20.2 mg (1% DV)
    • Iron: 12.0 mg (67% DV)
    • Zinc: 3.3 mg (22% DV)
    • Manganese: 2.0 mg (98% DV)
    • Copper: 1.8 mg (89% DV)
    • Selenium: 6.9 mcg (10% DV)
  • Vitamins: A, K, B12 and Niacin.

As you can see, a 100g dark chocolate bar is quiet nutritious, containing lots of carbohydrates, fiber, saturated and unsaturated fat, minerals and some vitamins. But all this comes with lots of calories, sugars and a fair amount of unhealthy fat.

2) Improving Blood Flow and Lowering Blood Pressure

Several studies confirmed that thanks to the flavanols in dark chocolate a stimulation of endothelium (lining of arteries) occurs, which in return produces nitric oxide. While we still don’t know every function of nitric oxide, one of them seems to be sending a signal to arteries to relax, thus lowering blood flow resistance, which reduces blood pressure. (2, 3).

However, from the studies we can see that the effects are quite minimal, although minimal is still better than nothing, right? I’d wouldn’t suggest, however, to eat half a kilogram of dark chocolate just to lower your blood pressure.

3) Lowering Cholesterol

According to a controlled study conducted by Food and Health R&D Laboratories, cocoa powder seems to significantly decrease oxidized LDL cholesterol in men, while increasing HDL and thus lowering the total LDL for subjects with high cholesterol. (4).

4) Huge Antioxidants Source

As we have mentioned early, one of the organic compounds located in dark chocolate is flavanol, which functions as an antioxidant. Since high-cocoa dark chocolate is rich in flavanol and polyphenols, the source of antioxidants is also high. Antioxidants are great against free radicals in human body, which also goes hand in hand with lowering cholesterol, since the antioxidants protect lipoproteins against oxidative damage.

5) Acts as Skin Protection From the Sun

According to another study, it seems that the famous flavanols also aid in skin density and hydration (5).

Another research confirmed that consumption of dark chocolate radically increases the MED (minimal erythemal dose), which is the minimum amount of UVB rays required to cause skin redness 24 hours after exposure (6).

Summary

In my personal opinion, there are some great benefits to dark chocolate and it’s certainly healthier than milk chocolate. However, one can only argue if the nutrition values and the benefits of flavanols are worth consuming dark chocolate regularly. I would say that there are vegetables and other foods with similar benefits, yet better nutrition values. The high calorie intake can definitely impact your overall lifestyle. If you decide to eat dark chocolate regularly, then taking moderate amounts is definitely something to watch out for.