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Dark Chocolate

This article is part of a larger article titled "100+ Healthiest Foods On Planet Earth."  Read it here.

Dark Chocolate Nutritional Information (per 100g)

Water: 1 g
Calories: 546 kcal
Protein: 4.9 g
Carbohydrate: 61.2 g
Dietary fiber: 7 g
Sugars: 47.9 g
Fat: 31.3 g
Saturated fat: 18.5 g
Monounsaturated fat: 9.5 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 1.1 g
Cholesterol: 8 mg
Vitamin B2: 0.1 mg
Vitamin B3: 0.7 mg
Vitamin B12: 0.2 μg
Vitamin A: 2 μg
Vitamin E: 0.5 mg
Vitamin K: 8.1 μg
Calcium: 56 mg
Iron: 8 mg
Magnesium: 146 mg
Phosphorus: 206 mg
Potassium: 559 mg
Sodium: 24 mg
Zinc: 2 mg

Most people wouldn’t think that chocolate could ever be considered healthy. It is one of the most popular indulgent foods in the world, and the Aztecs and Mayans referred to it as the ‘food of the gods’. Nevertheless, new research suggests that adding dark chocolate to your diet can provide a number of health benefits.

Promotes cardiovascular health. Cardiovascular disease is defined as a disease of the heart and blood vessels, and can lead a variety of serious health problems, such as heart attack, stroke, and death. There has been a vast amount of research into the benefits of dark chocolate for preventing and fighting cardiovascular disease, and the result have been extremely favourable.

A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials showed reductions in blood pressure, improved dilation of blood vessels, reductions in both LDL (bad) and HDL (good) cholesterol, and increased insulin resistance (Hooper et al, 2012). Most effects were found at very small doses of chocolate, but doses greater than 50g led to a better result for blood pressure.

High in antioxidants. Antioxidants are important for a wide array of health benefits. Dark chocolate has been found to have very high levels of antioxidants, with a capacity of 13.1 per 100g (Haritha et al, 2014). Jorgustin (2015) compiled a list of the top 100 high antioxidant foods, and dark chocolate was 31st on the list.

Natural cocoa powder contains high levels of procyanidins, and the higher the cocoa content of the chocolate, the higher the antioxidant level. This is why dark chocolate is much better than milk chocolate. It is important to remember that although dark chocolate does have antioxidants, it also has a lot of fat and sugar (a 40g bar of bournville contains 40% RDA saturated fat and 29% RDA sugar), so it should still be considered a treat.

Good for cognitive and mental health. A small amount of dark chocolate is not only good for the body, but it is also good for the mind. Modern life is extremely mentally taxing, and 1 in 4 people are expected to be affected by a mental health problem each year according to the mental health charity Mind.

Dark chocolate consumption, however, has been shown to have mood-boosting effects. Scholey et al (2009) compared cognitive performance and mood in participants who consumed a drink which contained cocoa antioxidants or a placebo, whilst completing a time-consuming cognitive task.

They found that rapid visual information processing responses were faster for participants consuming the cocoa drink, plus they had a significantly better task performance than the control group, and reported less mental fatigue. Another study by Sathyapalan et al (2010) found that consuming chocolate which is high in cocoa can significantly reduce both depression and anxiety associated with chronic fatigue syndrome.