5 Unexpected Health Benefits of Chocolate

It’s Valentine’s Day and that means everywhere you look you see… Chocolate! And seriously, what better way to tell someone you love them with a delicious, and unexpectedly healthy treat. Over the years chocolate has developed a poor reputation. Not here! This Valentine’s Day, we want you to indulge without guilt on your favorite chocolate treat. Here’s why…

Chocolate Helps to Reduce Stress

Dark chocolate has powerful antioxidant properties, making it one of the world’s best anti-inflammatory foods. Studies have also shown that small amounts of dark chocolate eaten regularly, actually reduce the stress hormones in the body. No wonder we reach for it when we’re feeling stressed or anxious!

Chocolate Helps Mitigate Sugar Cravings

Surprised? While it’s a noble idea to swear off sweets in an attempt to “fight sugar cravings,” it’s actually counterproductive. Studies have shown that the more with try to restrict ourselves from our favorite foods (like chocolate), the more we crave them. Allow yourself to indulge in your favorite chocolate on days besides Valentine’s Day and Halloween, and it’s likely your chocolate cravings will subside.  Additionally, dark chocolate is high in the nutrient magnesium, an essential nutrient for regulating blood sugar levels.

Chocolate Helps Builds Strong Bones

When we think of bone health, we usually think of the nutrient calcium, and the hormone vitamin D. However, calcium and vitamin D absorption are dependent on the amount of magnesium, a nutrient found in dark chocolate, we have in our body. While you can also get magnesium from dark leafy greens, nuts, and avocado, a bar of dark chocolate contains more than 50% of your daily recommended magnesium intake. While a bar a day might not be ideal from a nutritional standpoint (we recommend consuming a variety of foods), small amounts do add up!

Chocolate Helps Protect your Heart

Some studies have found that the compounds found in cocoa can help normalize cholesterol levels, increasing your HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and decreasing your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Additionally, magnesium plays a key role in regulating heart function.

Chocolate Makes You Smarter

Well, not exactly. Flavanols are a phytonutrient (plant nutrient), found in cocoa, that increases blood flow. Studies have shown that having a food or beverage rich in cocoa (like a homemade hot chocolate) can boost blood flow to key part of the brain for as long as 3 hours! Who knew chocolate would be the best study buddy?

Since many of the studies done on chocolate use dark chocolate, or pure cocoa powder, it’s likely that you do need to consume more concentrated doses to reap the benefits. Luckily, we have six dietitian approved chocolate recipes for you to try. Make one today! Let us know which one you’re excited to try in the comments below.

1. Chocolate Raspberry Avocado Pudding from Nutrition to Fit
Who knew you could add avocado to pudding? It sneaks right in there, and in combination with the raspberries, adds an extra dose of antioxidant power.

2. Dark Chocolate Olive Oil Mug Cake from The Baby Steps Dietitian
If you don’t feel like pulling out the baking dishes and want to go simple this year, try this “mug” cake. No baking required, all you have to do is microwave!

3. Dark Chocolate Berry Bark from Edwina Clark
Adding freeze dried berries to dark chocolate is a simple way to increase the nutritional quality of this snack or dessert. Plus, this gives the chocolate the crispy, crunchy texture you might get from a more processed alternative.

4. Double Chocolate Macaroon Tarts from Back to the Book Nutrition
This recipe uses raw cacao powder. Because it’s raw (not roasted like most chocolate), it contains higher amounts of antioxidants. Raw cacao powder tends to run on the more expensive side, so if you want to try this recipe, but don’t want to splurge, you can certainly replace it with the cocoa powder you find in the baking aisle.

5. Dark Chocolate Fondue for Two from Gluten Free Slow Cooking
Is there a more fun activity than dipping your favorite foods into chocolate? Serving this fondue with a variety of fruits is a great way to add nutrients and fiber to this simple dessert, leaving you satisfied without the sugar crash afterwards!

6. Dairy Free Fudge from Snacking in Sneakers
If you happen to be a dairy free household, this is the recipe for you (although you don’t have to be dairy free to enjoy this recipe). Made with coconut milk, this fudge has the creamy, dense texture of its dairy-filled alternative.