We all love a bit of chocolate from time to time, but now, new research suggests that regular consumption might actually help your health. However, this does surround dark chocolate in particular which means you can’t go and load up on Hershey’s every day.
Two studies were presented at this year’s Experimental Biology annual meeting in San Diego which both analysed the effects of dark chocolate on the body. Specifically, chocolate having a minimum of 90% cacao and 30% organic cane sugar. The benefits come from a component of the cacao called flavonoids, but previously, researchers thought of it was because of the sugar content. “For years, we have looked at the influence of dark chocolate on neurological functions from the standpoint of sugar content – the more sugar, the happier we are,” a head investigator said. The flavonoids have been found to act as antioxidants and fight inflammation which can benefit the brain and cardiovascular system.
The first study lasted 8 days and analysed 5 subjects (2 female and 2 male) aged between 25 and 50 who were told to avoid all high-antioxidant foods or supplements for two days prior. Each day, the participants were told to eat 48 grams of dark chocolate for the full 8 days. The results showed that regular cacao consumption improve the immune response of cells both immediately and over time, leading to the idea that eating dark chocolate can help with the immune system.
The second study looked at the effects of dark chocolate on mental health in a more acute time range. The researchers took 5 participants again aged between 22-40 and analysed the effects after both 30 minutes and 120 minutes. The results showed that consuming dark chocolate can help with learning, cognition, memory, recall, and mindfulness meditation for stress.
These studies suggest that just under 50 grams of dark chocolate a day is enough to dramatically improve your mental and physical wellbeing. This adds up to around 270 calories into anyone’s diet. Try chopping up chunks to put in your porridge (oatmeal) or melting it down to cover some fruit if you have trouble eating it as it is. You can also mix it into chilli and soup to increase the flavour (don’t knock it until you try it). Also, not all dark chocolate tastes the same, so if you don’t like one brand, then make sure to shop around before you decide you don’t like it.