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What are the Health Benefits of Chocolate?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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The health benefits of chocolate are often touted in the news, typically with a jaunty headline. While chocolate certainly does contain some beneficial compounds, the fact is that a very large volume of high quality dark chocolate would need to be eaten for these benefits to take effect. More chocolate, in fact, than most people could eat without severe intestinal discomfort. Some of these compounds are unique to chocolate, but others can be more readily obtained from things like fresh fruits such as blueberries. Ultimately, the health benefits of chocolate should not be used as an excuse for indulging.

Before plunging into the health benefits of chocolate, it is important to clarify that these benefits only apply for pure dark chocolate. Milk chocolate, chocolate desserts, and other chocolate sweets do not carry the same benefits, since the other ingredients tend to be harmful, and the beneficial compounds are present in trace amounts. High quality dark chocolate, however, does not contain things like harmful fats, and it has a concentration of the best part of the cocoa plant. Since the health benefits of chocolate are actually quite minimal when compared with other foods, consumers should not drown them out with harmful fats, dairy products, and an assortment of other things used to dilute chocolate.

Extensive analysis of chocolate has revealed a range of compounds including theobromine, anandamide, and flavonols, along with the more familiar caffeine. Many of these substances have a positive effect on the human body or on cognition. Flavonols, for example, are loaded with antioxidants, which are beneficial for cardiovascular health. Anandamide is a cannabinoid, and it may have psychoactive properties, along with theobromine. Studies on dark chocolate have shown that it is certainly not harmful, although it may not be as beneficial as a large salad or a piece of fresh fruit.

The psychoactive compounds in chocolate can lead to a feeling of general happiness and well being, which many believe is one of the most important health benefits of chocolate. Even inhaling chocolate appears to induce a sense of relaxation, but this may also be due to social associations with chocolate. Chocolate certainly appears to stimulate serotonin production, since it contains tryptophan, and it may reduce sensitivity to pain.

The flavonols in chocolate appear to have more clear-cut health benefits. Antioxidants are beneficial to human health in a number of ways. The flavonols in chocolate help to keep the arteries from clogging, promoting healthy blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease. However, chocolate fans should be aware that numerous other foods contain antioxidants in much higher concentrations.

Excessive consumption of chocolate and sweets in general is not advised for people with certain health problems. Diabetics, for example, should confine themselves to sugar-free chocolate. People who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome also may want to avoid chocolate, since the stimulating effects on the brain and body can be followed by a sugar low. Chocolate does not, however, appear to be involved in migraines or acne, which may be a relief for some patients.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By GreenWeaver — On Aug 09, 2010

Bhutan- The health benefits of chocolate milk are also numerous. According to the Journal of American Dietetic Association, a child who consumes chocolate milk has a lower body mass index than a child that does not drink chocolate milk.

Also, aside from the antioxidant benefits of chocolate, consuming chocolate milk offers even more benefits. Chocolate milk contains calcium, potassium, vitamin D, vitamin A,vitamin B 12.

The health benefits of hot chocolate are similar to that of chocolate milk. So both drinks are actually really good choices for children.

By Bhutan — On Aug 09, 2010

Latte31- I am so glad that something that is this good, is actually good for me for a change.

Milk chocolate really has a lot of benefits. The health benefits of milk chocolate include phosphate which promotes healthy teeth and offers protection from decay.

In addition, milk chocolate also contains antioxidants which protects the heart and the overall body for an aging. It also is a mild stimulant and has a small amount of caffeine.

By latte31 — On Aug 09, 2010

Sevenseas- That is true. Flavonoids protect the body from premature aging. The antioxidants offer a hormone balance in the system, as well as reduced blood pressure.

The health benefits of dark chocolate or great. Aside from lowering blood pressure and cholesterol it also raises the serotonin levels in the body which is a natural mood enhancer.

The benefits of chocolate on health are really amazing. I usually buy the dark chocolate Lindt bars which are absolutely delicious.

By sevenseas — On May 02, 2008

Dark chocolate, with high content of cocoa is healthy in small doses. Chocolate contains flavenoids, but is also calorie dense and has saturated fat. So one ounce a day gives sufficient benefits without adding too many calories.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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