Especially if you have chronic pain.
Is chocolate good for you? Well, if you or someone you know experiences constant chronic pain, your best bet to help yourself (and them!) is to have a piece of dark chocolate.
Chocolate helps reduce pain and improve overall health. In fact, the health benefits of dark chocolate are so extensive that it’s considered by many to be a superfood.
The benefits of chocolate come from the cocoa bean. The higher the concentration of cacao in your chocolate, the more health benefits you get. And while there are many different types of chocolate, dark chocolate with a cacao content of 65 percent or more is best for reducing chronic pain.
Dark chocolate is superior to milk chocolate because it has more healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, fewer carbohydrates, less sugar, more fiber, higher levels of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Dark chocolate also has more flavonoids, which are nutrients found in plants that reduce inflammation and boost immunity.
Here are 14 health benefits of dark chocolate — AKA healthy reasons to eat more of it.
1. Your feel-good endorphins increase.
Chocolate increases the production of endorphins, the body’s natural opiates. As a result, it decreases pain and lifts your mood.
It’s also the only known food source of anandamide, a natural cannabinoid that attaches to the body’s cannabis receptors, just like marijuana. This is another source of chocolate’s pain-relieving effects.
Chocolate also boosts the release of the body’s natural amphetamines, phenylethylamine, which increases energy. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that acts as an antidepressant, is also boosted by eating chocolate. This may be why so many people reach for chocolate when they need a mood boost.
2. It’s good for your heart.
The heart benefits of chocolate are considerable. It helps restore the flexibility of the arteries, as well as preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels.
Eating chocolate has also been shown to reduce levels of “bad” cholesterol and raise levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL). As a result, it reduces atherosclerosis, a disease of plaque buildup inside arteries.
Probably because of these effects, daily chocolate consumption has been linked to a lower risk of stroke.
3. Your brain also benefits from dark chocolate.
Chocolate is also good for the brain.
A study at Harvard Medical School found that two cups of hot chocolate a day helped improve blood flow to essential parts of the brain. This indicates that chocolate could help in fighting diseases of progressive cognitive decline, such as Alzheimer’s.
4. It has benefits during pregnancy.
If someone you love is expecting, there are health benefits to eating chocolate for both mom and baby.
A Finnish study found that pregnant women who ate chocolate had less stress, and their babies smiled more than the babies of moms who didn’t eat chocolate. That’s great news for women who are expecting or planning to have a family.
5. Dark chocolate lowers blood pressure.
Nitric oxide is produced from the flavanols in dark chocolate, meaning when you eat dark chocolate, a signal is sent to relax your arteries, reducing blood pressure.
In fact, studies have found a link between cocoa and dark chocolate, lowering blood pressure and increasing blood flow.
6. It’s rich in necessary nutrients and anxioxidants.
While a diet rich in fibre and nutritious ingredients is necessary to be healthy, dark chocolate actually contains plenty of much-needed minerals and elements: copper, magnesium, iron, fibres, potassium, zinc, and more. And that’s just in a 100-gram bar, with 70-to-80 per cent cocoa.
Keep in mind that this amount contains a fair amount of sugar, so while it’s great that a yummy treat has health benefits, consider the caloric intake as well.
But when it comes to antioxidants, one study found that dark chocolate has more flavanols and polyphenols than the other fruits tested. How’s that for healthy?
7. It reduces the risk of heart disease.
LDL cholesterol, also called “bad” cholesterol, is no match for the compounds in dark chocolate. Multiple studies prove this.
Over a 15-year period, one study found that cocoa in dark chocolate reduced the risk of heart disease by 50 per cent. Another study concluded that people who eat dark chocolate more than 5 times per week lowered their risk of heart disease by 57 per cent.
8. Dark chocolate can act as an anti-inflammatory.
While eating chocolate is a great endorphin- and brain-booster, its health benefits don’t end there.
The anti-inflammatory properties of dark chocolate can help the body fight against arthritis, cancer, and even diabetes. One study from 2018 found that dark chocolate “reduced inflammatory biomarkers” in people who had type 2 diabetes, for individuals who ate 30 grams of 84 per cent cacao chocolate for 8 weeks.
9. It boosts memory.
Dark chocolate increases neuroplasticity in the brain, effecting memory in quite a beneficial way.
Research has also found a link between the brain and dark chocolate. And even though further research is required, the flavonoids in the chocolate may be responsible for improved learning.
10. Your skin benefits from it, too!
Due to the number of necessary minerals in dark chocolate, your skin may be reaping the benefits as well. Calcium and manganese repair skin and produce collagen, respectively.
In addition, studies have shown that those beneficial antioxidants can improve the skin’s elasticity, protecting it from UV rays.
11. Dark chocolate reduces the risk of developing diabetes.
While a lot of chocolate has high levels of sugar, research has found that cacao can help in metabolizing glucose and insulin resistance. Another study showed that people who had dark chocolate at least once per week were not as at risk of developing diabetes as those who rarely ate it.
12. It’s good for gut health and losing weight.
Chocolate on a diet? It may sound a little nuts, but studies suggest that dark chocolate can help control appetite.
In fact, one study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology says that chocolate acts as a prebiotic during digestion, encouraging beneficial bacteria to grow in the gut. This means that your body absorbs nutrients and boosts metabolism.
13. Dark chocolate may even help prevent cancer.
Free radicals can wreak havoc on our bodies as a result of “oxidative stress” where “Oxygen in the body splits into single atoms with unpaired electrons. Electrons like to be in pairs, so these atoms, called free radicals, scavenge the body to seek out other electrons so they can become a pair,” damaging cells.
Fortunately, dark chocolate can help prevent certain types of cancers from growing over time. One study showed that people who ate chocolate rich in antioxidants and flavonoids developed fewer cancers than those who didn’t eat it at all.
14. It’s a cough suppressant.
Ditch the cough syrup and opt for dark chocolate instead. Theobromine is one of the chemicals in cocoa, and has been shown to be a better cough suppressant than codeine and most cough medicines.
In fact, a study tested this theory by administering different cough medicines to each group: theobromine in one, cough medicine with codeine in another, and a placebo in the third. Participants were exposed to capsaicin, eventually showing that the theobromine group needed 1/3 more capsaicin “to cough five times.”
With all these dark chocolate health benefits, what’s not to like?
Well, chocolate does have a lot of calories, about 150 per ounce, so moderation is key. The trick is to substitute it for less healthy treats.
The next time you’re looking for a dessert for yourself or a gift for someone you love, choose a nice box of dark chocolates. You’ll get a tasty treat, plus some great health benefits and chronic pain relief, too!