Who doesn’t love chocolate? But who doesn’t also feel just a bit guilty when they eat it? Well there’s good news: the right kind of chocolate can actually be good for you.
The darker the chocolate, the more cocoa it contains, i.e., the healthier it is for you. Milk chocolate has less cocoa than dark chocolate and doesn’t provide the same level of benefits. It also has more fat and sugar. White chocolate has little to no cocoa and the highest amount of fat and sugar.
Here are seven reasons to celebrate this sweet and healthy treat:
- The cocoa bean, the ingredient that gives chocolate its distinct taste, contains more than 300 compounds that are beneficial to health.
- Cocoa is full of antioxidants called polyphenols, which are known to destroy free radicals — chemicals that can cause damage to DNA and other cell components — in the body.
- Chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa, like dark chocolate, may help reduce the “stickiness” of blood platelets, reducing the risk of blockages in the heart’s arteries.
- Cocoa beans contain compounds that can improve mood and pleasure by boosting the brain’s serotonin and endorphin levels.
- The antioxidants found in dark chocolate can reduce LDL, or “bad cholesterol,” which helps protect against heart disease.
- Cocoa butter found in dark chocolate contains stearic acid, a monounsaturated fat that may increase HDL or “good cholesterol.”
- In moderation, dark chocolate may help increase walking distance for people with peripheral artery disease, according to an article in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
So remember, it’s OK to indulge every now and then — as long as you choose dark chocolate, 1 to 2 ounces per serving, for the greatest health benefit.
Carolyn Mitchell, RDN is a registered dietitian at Sharp Coronado Hospital.