Advertisement

How can I get the most health benefits from eating chocolate?

Will Clower, PhD
Nutrition & Dietetics
The rule to keep in mind is to maximize the cocoa and minimize the sugar. The way to do this is to "go dark," practice training your taste preferences up in the direction of darker varieties. Over time, your tastes will accommodate to the healthier, higher cocoa percentages.

The reason you want to move your flavor preferences in this direction is because high cocoa chocolate is very high in antioxidants called catechins and epicatechins. These prove to be good for your heart, for helping to prevent cancer cells from proliferating, good for your mood, your skin, and even your energy level through the day.

It's okay if your chocolate has other, added, elements as long as they are items that are also natural foods (hazelnuts, dried cherries, chili, or almonds). Just steer clear of the additive sugars that turn chocolate into a candy: nougat, caramel, wafer, etc. 

When choosing your cocoa powder, do not get the Dutch Processed version. The "natural unsweetened" kind of cocoa powder has between 60% and 90% more of those antioxidants than the Dutch Processed (you may also see the phrase, "processed with alkali"). The natural unsweeted cocoa powder will allow you to get more health benefits from anything you make with it.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Chocolate's health benefits have always been a little tricky. It doesn’t seem to matter which kind you choose (dark, extra dark or milk), regularly eating this delectable dessert could cut your risk of a heart attack by 37%, of a stroke by 29% and of diabetes by a startling 29%.

This is all due to compounds called polyphenols that boost your levels of nitric oxide, beneficial stuff that keeps your arteries young and flexible. Chocolate's natural ingredients also discourage blood clots, ease blood pressure and even help your body absorb blood sugar more easily.

Still, don't overdo it. Chocolate's sugar and fat can override its benefits. To enjoy a daily dose without imperiling your waist size, try these tactics:
  • Have one or two dark Hershey's Kisses a day or an ounce or two a few times per week.
  • Choosing dark chocolate is still a smart idea because it has real cocoa and less sugar than milk chocolate. And dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa content has the most healthful compounds.
  • Avoid any chocolate made with palm or coconut oil or hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil.
  • Skip the fat and sugar by whipping up a cup of cocoa. Unsweetened cocoa powder has more healthful polyphenols than "Dutch processed." Warm up fat-free milk, stir in cocoa and add a touch of sweetener.

Continue Learning about Nutrition

Why You Need to Add the Monster Radish to Your Diet
Why You Need to Add the Monster Radish to Your Diet
Sacagawea was the Shoshone Indian who helped guide Lewis and Clark’s 1805 expedition from Montana to the Pacific. Her bravery and navigational abiliti...
Read More
What foods contain sorbitol?
William B. Salt II., MDWilliam B. Salt II., MD
Foods and products that contain sorbitol include: Some elixir (liquid) medications, in which the sor...
More Answers
What foods can raise endorphin levels?
Frances Largeman-Roth, RDFrances Largeman-Roth, RD
Capsaicin is the chemical that makes hot peppers “hot.” When you eat hot peppers, your body responds...
More Answers
What Are Health Benefits of Whole-Grain Pastas?
What Are Health Benefits of Whole-Grain Pastas?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.