I tried to use chocolate to lose weight as a chubby kid. According to the plan I followed I was to eat a small piece of dark chocolate about twenty minutes before dinner. The chocolate was supposed to suppress my appetite and help me lose weight. I’m not sure about the merits of my fad diet because I gave up on it after I ate the whole candy bar at once. But there might be more to the health benefits of chocolate than just a passing fad.
No one is telling you load up your diet with chocolate bars, but compounds found in cocoa beans called flavonols can be a healthy part of your overall nutrition. Just any chocolate won’t do. You need to eat the dark variety that contains at least 70% cocoa beans (source). This means you’ll have to choose organic brands like Green and Black’s over popular brands like Hershey bars and M&Ms.
Another great choice which can be found at Target is the Lindt dark chocolate brands.
This is my all time favorite brand, Endangered Species Chocolate, with cocoa nibs. It has a shockingly high amount of cocoa and it’s low in sugar!
How to choose the healthiest chocolate bars
- Choose the highest percentage of dark chocolate possible.
- Pay attention to the sugar per serving. Less than 12 grams of sugar is best.
- Organic is preferred.
- Gluten free is alway a positive.
- Carbs should be low.
Fight Disease With Flavonols
Chocolate probably won’t ever be considered health food, but as part of your overall nutrition, it can help you fight a variety of diseases. Studies of quercetin, one type of flavonol, have been shown to lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart attack (source). Quercetin is also an antioxidant that works to eliminate damaging free radicals from your body. Remember that you need to choose brands of dark chocolate with minimal processing and a high percentage of cocoa. This means you’ll have to avoid the sugar-laden versions.
Better Performance Through Chocolate
“Cacao supports circulation and general cardiovascular health. That’s because it’s endowed with specific nutrients called flavonoids, including one called epicatechin, which benefit the cardiovascular system in several ways, including by supporting optimal blood flow as well as desirable blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Optimal blood flow to muscle during and after exercise could translate to performance and recovery maximization because blood delivers oxygen and nutrients to muscle while also removing waste molecules like carbon dioxide and lactic acid (source).”
Many of us are looking at proper nutrition to help us boost our workouts, but who knew it could come in the form of delicious chocolate? Athletes and the military have been looking at the benefits of flavonols like quercetin – specifically its potential to enhance both mental and physical performance. Some college athletic departments are making chocolate milk available to their athletes after their training sessions, but it’s unclear how much benefit the athletes gain from this practice. The U.S. military is also looking at flavonols as a supplement that could be beneficial to troops (source). Researchers are experimenting to see if various doses will result in increased alertness and performance. This is especially for troops deployed to dangerous combat zones.