We’re always being told that chocolate isn’t good for us and that it should only be eaten on special occasions because of its high sugar content. But that’s not entirely true. Yes, most chocolates are unhealthy because they have a high sugar content, but some—dark chocolate in particular—have several scientifically-proven health benefits.
Health benefits of dark chocolate
- Releases natural pleasure-inducing chemicals, such as endorphins and serotonin
- Has cardiovascular benefits, such as relaxed blood pressure and lowers the levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL)
- Increases blood flow to your brain, reducing the risk of stroke
- Rich in antioxidants
- Rich in vitamins and minerals, especially potassium, copper, magnesium, and iron
- Contains healthy amounts of stimulants, such as caffeine and theobromine
- Contains fewer milk ingredients, and some studies have shown that milk with chocolate can result in less absorption of the antioxidants in chocolate
Generally, the rule is that the higher the percentage of cocoa in chocolate, the better it is for you. Think of it this way: if you have two equally-sized chocolate bars and one contains more cocoa than the other, it must mean that that same bar must have less sugar, milk, and other ingredients. Cocoa is a natural product derived from cacao beans which grow on cacao trees.
The catch is that for most people, dark chocolate is an acquired taste. Cocoa is naturally bitter, and so the darker the chocolate (or the higher the percentage of cocoa), the more bitter it will be—which explains why many chocolates have low cocoa content and high sugar content!
There is a middle ground. For those who would like to transition from regular to dark chocolate you can purchase organic dark chocolates infused with flavours such as ginger, mint, orange, and berry. These tend to have slightly more sugar than regular dark chocolates but have less sugar than regular chocolate bars. Or you can melt the chocolate and dip your favourite fruit—bananas, strawberries, cherries—in it. They’re a great way to introduce dark chocolate into your diet as you slowly make the shift from the chocolate you’re used to, to the dark chocolate that’s great for your health.
Personally, when I was making the transition and getting used to the added bitterness of higher cocoa content, I turned to organic dark chocolate with crystallized organic ginger—it had the health benefits of organic dark chocolate (minimum 60 per cent organic cocoa solids in the brand that I buy), as well as the benefits of organic ginger.
After a week or so of eating these chocolates, switching to plain dark chocolate should be a piece of cake! Don’t forget that you can opt for organic dark chocolate as well.