Eating the RIGHT kind of chocolate can confer health benefits (recipes included)
08/29/2020 / By Joanne Washburn / Comments
Eating the RIGHT kind of chocolate can confer health benefits (recipes included)

Chocolate is regarded as an indulgent treat because of its high sugar content. In fact, there’s not much else to milk chocolate bars and candies found at the supermarket besides sugar and the long list of health issues and complications related to it.

But chocolate isn’t all that bad. It might sound too good to be true, but dark chocolate – a kind of chocolate that contains at least 70 percent cacao – has some significant health benefits. Nonetheless, like most foods, it’s still best consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

Reported health benefits

Dark chocolate tastes like a decadent indulgence. But it boasts some science-backed health benefits that establish it as a superfood to beat. Let’s take a look at some of them:

Contains essential nutrients

Most of dark chocolate’s reported health benefits can be attributed to its incredible nutritional profile. In particular, dark chocolate contains fiber, potassium, calcium, copper and magnesium.

It does contain a sizable chunk of calories and fat, so it’s still best to be mindful of portions and intake. Some dark chocolate might also list added sugars and other artificial ingredients, so don’t forget to check the label. Those labeled “organic” and “70 percent cacao” are ideal.

Supports heart health

The Cacao plant produces antioxidants that end up concentrated in its beans. These antioxidants include flavonoids, one of the most potent antioxidants in cacao, which have been found to help reduce blood pressure, boost blood circulation and promote optimal heart health.

This rich antioxidant content is one of the major features of dark chocolate that distinguish it from milk chocolate, a kind of processed chocolate that contains milk and added sugars. If in doubt, remember that the more cacao chocolate contains, the more antioxidants it can offer.

Boosts brain and mental health

Dark chocolate can be a delicious and nutritious comfort snack, too. Multiple studies found that the antioxidants in dark chocolate can reduce stress and mitigate its effects on the brain.

These antioxidants also stimulate those areas of the brain responsible for pleasure, happiness and learning.

Reduces diabetes risk

It might sound odd that a product that contains sugar could minimize the risk of diabetes, but it’s true. Clinical trials demonstrate that eating dark chocolate rich in cacao can make it easier for our bodies to process glucose, thus leading to better blood sugar control.

The antioxidants in dark chocolate also help restore cells’ sensitivity to insulin, the hormone responsible for controlling blood glucose, in prediabetics and diabetics. Taken together, these studies suggest that dark chocolate could help manage and protect against diabetes.

Promotes digestion

Eating chocolate might seem like a disastrous approach to appetite regulation since it can seem difficult to eat just one bar of it at a time. But research suggests that eating dark chocolate before or after meals triggers hormones that tell the brain the stomach is full.

The fiber in dark chocolate also acts as a prebiotic, that is, food for the beneficial bacteria in the gut. In feeding these bacteria, dark chocolate promotes digestion, boosts metabolism and enhances nutrient absorption in the gut.

Protects against cancer

Unstable molecules called free radicals are thought to be responsible for premature aging and the onset of chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer. But antioxidants in plant-based foods like dark chocolate can help protect cells from the harmful effects of these molecules.

In fact, some studies on cancer research found that the antioxidants called epicatechin and quercetin in dark chocolate are responsible for its cancer-fighting potential. These antioxidants can also be found in other superfoods, such as green tea, blackberries, onions and cherries.

Maintains skin health

Essential nutrients in dark chocolate, such as copper, iron, magnesium and manganese, are beneficial to skin health. Manganese, for instance, stimulates the production of collagen. This is a protein that offers structural support to the cells of our skin, cartilage, ligaments, tendons and bones.

Calcium, on the other hand, also helps repair damaged skin cells. In addition, the other antioxidants in dark chocolate can protect the skin from sun exposure that can lead to premature aging and skin cancer.

Raises good cholesterol

Multiple studies support the idea that dark chocolate can reduce bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. Good cholesterol scours the bloodstream for bad cholesterol and eliminates them. In high enough amounts, bad cholesterol can clog arteries and heighten the risk of heart disease, stroke and heart attack.

In addition, the cocoa butter in dark chocolate also contains oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat considered beneficial to the heart.

Dark chocolate recipes

Dark chocolate can be a tad too bitter for some people if consumed as-is, so it’s best to incorporate it into some indulgent but healthy desserts. Use these delectable dark chocolate recipes for some quick and simple homemade desserts and pastries:

Flourless dark chocolate and pear cake

This light but luscious cake recipe features pears, a superfood that also supports heart health and digestion. Hazelnuts, another superfood featured in this recipe, boasts a high antioxidant content. Together, these ingredients make for one healthful, flourless cake.

Total time: 40 minutes


  • 85 g gluten-free dark chocolate
  • 85 g golden caster sugar
  • 85 g butter
  • 85 g hazelnut, toasted and ground
  • 1 teaspoon brandy
  • 4 ripe pears
  • 3 eggs, separated


  1. Cut a circle of baking parchment to fit the base of a 25-cm loose-bottomed tin.
  2. Melt a tablespoon of butter and brush the inside of the tin.
  3. Place another circle of baking parchment, and brush it again using the butter.
  4. Spoon in 2 tablespoons of golden caster sugar to coat the base and sides.
  5. Preheat the oven to 356 F.
  6. Melt the dark chocolate and the remaining butter in a bowl over a pan of hot water.
  7. Once melted, remove it from the heat and stir in the brandy. Set it aside to cool.
  8. In another bowl, whisk egg yolks with the remaining golden caster sugar until the mixture is pale and thick.
  9. Fold it into the melted dark chocolate mixture with the hazelnuts.
  10. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft enough to fold.
  11. Stir the egg whites into the dark chocolate mix one spoonful at a time.
  12. Spread out the cake mix into the prepared tin.
  13. Peel, halve and core the pears, then arrange them over the mixture, cut-side down.
  14. Bake the cake for 40 minutes or until the pears are soft and the cake is cooked throughout.
  15. Let it cool on a rack before serving.

Dark chocolate chunk pecan cookies

Skip the milk chocolate chip cookies and go for these dark chocolate and pecan ones instead. Pecans are also antioxidant-rich foods capable of conferring more or less the same benefits as dark chocolate. Combined, both of these ingredients make for healthier, go-to cookies.

Total time: 25 minutes


  • 200 g dark chocolate
  • 100 g pecans
  • 100 g butter
  • 100 g plain flour
  • 50 g light sugar
  • 85 g golden caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg


  1. Preheat the oven to 356 F.
  2. Melt 85 g of the dark chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water.
  3. In the same bowl, add the butter, sugars, vanilla extract and egg. Whisk until smooth.
  4. Stir in three-quarters of both the pecans and remaining dark chocolate, then add the flour and bicarbonate of soda.
  5. Heap spoonfuls of the mixture, spaced apart, on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Don’t spread the mixture.
  6. Poke the remaining pecans and dark chocolate chunks into each spoonful.
  7. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes or until firm.
  8. Let them cool on a rack before serving.

Not all chocolates are detrimental to our diets and meal plans. Dark chocolate is one of the most delectable and nutritious chocolates out there. Nibble on a bar for dessert or substitute it for milk chocolate in dessert recipes.

Sources: 1 2

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