The Wonderful Health Benefits of Chocolate

The Wonderful Health Benefits of Chocolate

Being a smart consumer, you’ve probably wondered if there is any truth to the marketing claims that chocolate is good for you. It seems counterintuitive that a food so delicious, beautiful, and aromatic could be anything more than a guilty pleasure.

Good news: Chocolate consumption is associated with lower risk of heart disease, skin cancer, and diabetes. It’s also linked to improved brain function in older people.

Another interesting finding: some research suggests that people who eat more chocolate have less body fat. In one controlled study, supplementing with 70 percent dark chocolate for 7 days led to a slimmer waist circumference and lower inflammation in women who were at risk of metabolic syndrome. Scientists believe the antioxidants in chocolate reduce appetite and favorably affect how the body stores fat.

What is it about chocolate that makes it a top notch anti-aging food?

Chocolate is packed with antioxidants, containing bioactive compounds that prevent inflammation and aging.  For example, chocolate may be protective in the case of cardiovascular health: The flavanols in chocolate stimulate the lining of the blood vessels to produce more nitric oxide, a gas that allows for healthy dilation (relaxation) of the arteries. Nitric oxide is important because it allows for better blood flow throughout the body so that oxygen and nutrient-rich blood can reach organs and the brain with less effort from the heart.

Chocolate also improves cholesterol, helping to avoid oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which can harm arteries and lead to plaque buildup. The antioxidants in chocolate also impact how cells respond to insulin, while favorably moderating fat and carbohydrate metabolism. The result is lower diabetes risk and a healthier metabolism.

Here’s an interesting fact: There’s a correlation between chocolate consumption per capita (how much chocolate each person in a country consumes) and Nobel prizes. That is, the countries that have the greatest number of Nobel prizes eat the most chocolate. At least one scientist thinks the caffeine and antioxidants in chocolate are potentially improving cognitive function on a population level scale. Whether you view this as far-fetched or not, there is evidence that the flavanols in chocolate can reduce risk of dementia and improve performance on cognitive thinking tests.

How To Use Chocolate For Longevity:

There are a couple of caveats when it comes to chocolate. A lot of commercial “chocolate” is made from artificial flavorings and has little if any of the actual cocoa bean that provides the antioxidants. Then there’s the fact that chocolate contains sugar and calories—both of which most Westerners are eating too much of as it is.

Your best bet is to opt for dark chocolate that contains at least 70 percent cocoa solids. How much should you eat? Science hasn’t identified an optimal chocolate dose, but a good bet is a square or two a few days a week.


Buijsse, B., et al. Cocoa intake, blood pressure, and cardiovascular mortality: the Zutphen Elderly Study. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2006. 166(4), 411-417.

Crozier, S., et al. Cacao seeds are a “Super Fruit”: A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products. Chemistry Central Journal. 2011. 5(5).

Cuenca-Garcia, M., et al. Association between chocolate consumption and fatness in European adolescents. Nutrients. 2014. 30(2), 236-239.

Desideri, G., et al. Benefits in Cognitive Function, Blood Pressure, and Insulin Resistance Through Cocoa Flavanol Consumption in Elderly Subjects With Mild Cognitive Impairment. Hypertension. 2012. 60, 794-801.

Fardi, Z., et al. Acute dark chocolate and cocoa ingestion and endothelial function: a randomized controlled crossover trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2008. 88(1). 58-63.

Farhat, G., et al. Dark chocolate: an obesity paradox or a culprit for weight gain? Phytotherapy Research. 2014. 28(6), 791-7.

Matsumoto, C., et al. Chocolate consumption and risk of diabetes mellitus in the Physicians’ Health Study. 2015. 101(2):362-7.

Messerli, F. Chocolate Consumption, Cognitive Function, and Nobel Laureates. New England Journal of Medicine. 2012. 367(16):1562-4.