Every year on July 7, World Chocolate Day gives chocoholics a guilt-free excuse to indulge in their favorite sweet treat. But you shouldn’t feel guilty about eating chocolate the rest of the year. Why? Because it’s good for you.
It might sound too good to be true, but we promise it’s not, says Dyan, a fitness pro and MYX trainer. She tells us dark chocolate enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet can offer health benefits for both men and women. “Dark chocolate can be a healthy part of a sustainable diet,” she explains. “Enjoying occasional treats can be a real boost for your mood.”
She helps us break down its nutritional profile and how to incorporate dark chocolate into a healthy lifestyle.
What is dark chocolate?
Dark chocolate is different from the milk chocolate candy bar you see at the checkout stand. It’s a rich, bitter chocolate that contains no milk — just cocoa solids, sugar, and cocoa butter. There’s minimal salt in dark chocolate unless you buy a version with added sea salt.
Dark chocolate can contain anywhere from 50 percent up to 100 percent cacao. Most brands contain 70 to 90 percent cacao. The more cacao, the richer and less sweet the flavor.
Why is dark chocolate good for you?
It’s good for you because it's naturally high in iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese. Dark chocolate’s benefits also include being rich in antioxidants and flavanols. A scientific study called cacao seeds a “superfruit” because of their high concentration of phytonutrients. Cacao has more of these than fruits like blueberries and pomegranates.
Antioxidants help improve blood flow, lower blood pressure, and raise good cholesterol. Flavanols offer some protection against heart disease as well as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. They can also help with digestive issues such as inflammatory bowel disease.
How much is too much?
Dyan enjoys dark chocolate as an occasional treat. She promises that a small serving of around 20 grams (roughly six small pieces or two large squares, depending on the size of the bar) is incredibly satisfying. But, she points out, because dark chocolate is high in saturated fat and sugar, it’s important to enjoy it in moderation.
What’s the best dark chocolate to buy?
If you’re buying dark chocolate, the higher the percentage of cacao, the better it is for you. But the best one to buy is the one in your hand, the one with the taste you like.
So go ahead and add a bit of dark chocolate to your self-care routine — enjoy the indulgence — and the benefits of dark chocolate.