To so many people, chocolate is something of a guilty pleasure or taboo to indulge in. But research shows that, like many other foods, when consumed in moderation, it can provide very nutritious and mental health benefits.
First and foremost, it’s important to point out the dangers of labeling a food as “off-limits” or “taboo”. John Hopkins Medicine states that, “labeling any food as completely off-limits usually results in increased cravings for that food and guilt when you eventually do eat it.” With this guilt, it can lead to certain levels of stress or depression over doing something you deem “unhealthy”.
If you are trying to cut back your chocolate intake, then you should start by setting terms as to how and when you consume it. Set it aside as an after-meal snack and make sure you try to limit how much of it you are eating in one sitting.
John Hopkins points out that eating chocolate in moderation and without guilt will prevent you from “cycling between trying to completely avoid it and then overdoing it”.
Not only does making chocolate an acceptable treat improve your health, but actually eating chocolate can help certain aspects of your physical health, too! Specifically, dark chocolate.
According to Devon Peart, a dietitian with Cleveland Clinic, dark chocolate contains “lower added sugar and fat than milk or white chocolate,” and is filled with antioxidants known as flavonoids.
Dark chocolate contains more cocoa than other chocolates (anywhere between 50-90%) which provides more flavonoids and lower sugar. But, it’s not just healthier compared to other chocolates, it’s actually proven to be a snack that is generally healthy for you.
John Hopkins outlines a number of ways that research shows how dark chocolate can improve your bodily health.
It can help your heart by lowering blood pressure and increasing blood flow throughout your body. With this, it can lower chances of a stroke and even blood clots.
On top of this, because it can increase blood flow, dark chocolate can actually improve your brain function, according to Healthline, who says that “eating cocoa daily appears to improve attention, verbal learning, and memory.”
Dark chocolate can also help balance your immune system. The flavonoids prevent the immune system from overreacting and reduces oxidative stress, which is “an imbalance caused by cells fighting against free radicals and a common cause of many diseases.”
Another disease it combats is diabetes. Dark chocolate also contains epicatechin, a naturally occurring plant compound, and it’s proven to help the body more effectively use insulin.
So while dark chocolate is able to help various physical health aspects, it’s important to remember that all of these effects are best demonstrated through moderation of consumption. In addition, if you have an eating disorder, you should first consult your doctor or a health professional before deciding to incorporate chocolate into your diet.
In conclusion, you should enjoy your relationship with chocolate instead of vilifying it as something that is totally unhealthy.