The Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

An article by Chocolaterie Wanders & Dietitian Alison Sturm

The benefits of eating chocolate may be more than just its great taste! A wealth of research has begun to show that chocolate—particularly dark—may provide health benefits that include decreasing the risk factors for certain diseases, most notably cardiovascular disease.

Evidence suggests that it is chocolate’s high concentration of a class of compounds called flavonoids that are the cause of the food’s health benefits. While other foods, including green tea, red wine, and many fruits and vegetables also contain flavonoids, ounce for ounce, cocoa has greater flavonoid content. And the darker the cocoa product, the more flavonoids it contains. Time, temperature, and processing can all negatively impact the flavonoid content of chocolate. Proper processing, which Chocolaterie Wanders adheres to, allows for the highest percentage of flavonoids to be retained in the chocolate.

The exact mechanisms behind chocolate’s health benefits are unclear; however, researchers have several hypotheses. The structure of flavonoids gives them antioxidant properties, which may protect the surfaces of blood vessels from damage by keeping arteries flexible, which in turn increases blood flow and eases inflammation. These effects are very similar to those achieved by taking a daily dose of aspirin. The flavonoids in cocoa may also decrease the oxidation of LDL or “bad” cholesterol, subsequently decreasing plaque build-up in the arteries. The process of plaque build-up, or atherosclerosis, could lead to heart attack or stroke.

Cocoa products may also play a role heart health by inhibiting the formation of blood clots and delaying the blood clotting process. Studies have shown that blood clot formation is decreased in people who consume dark chocolate, a beverage containing cocoa, or a supplement containing cocoa flavonoids.

While chocolate does contain saturated fat, and a high saturated fat intake is a risk factor for heart disease, the specific saturated fat in dark chocolate does not cause cholesterol levels to be elevated as much as other saturated fats. However, chocolate is a very concentrated source of calories and fat, and as such, should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet that contains a variety of flavonoid-rich foods, especially fruits and vegetables.

At Chocolaterie Wanders, we pride ourselves in using only the highest cocoa-content chocolates available today, while reducing the amount of added sugar as much as possible. We are committed to providing our customers with the latest medical research and information available concerning dark chocolate and its health benefits. While we are confident that the information in this article is accurate, we can in no way take the place of a medical professional. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet.

Sources: Keen, CL, Holt, RR, Oteiza, PI, Fraga, CG, Schmitz, HH. Cocoa antioxidants and cardiovascular health. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2005; 81(s): 298S-303S.

Kris-Etherton, PM, Keen, CL. Evidence that the antioxidant flavonoids in tea and cocoa are beneficial for cardiovascular health [Nutrition and metabolism]. Current Opinion in Lipidiology. 2002; 13(1): 41-9.

Murphy, KJ, Chronopoulos, AK, Singh, I, Francis, MA, Moriarty, H, Pike, MJ, Turner, AH, Mann, NJ, Sinclair, AJ. Dietary flavanols and procyanidin oligomers from cocoa inhibit platelet function. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2003; 77: 1466-73.

Steinberg, FM, Bearden, MM, Keen, CL. Cocoa and chocolate flavonoids: Implications for cardiovascular health. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2003; 103: 215-223.

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