Nothing gladdens our hearts more than a headline proclaiming that chocolate is, in fact, good for you. We’ve received enough validation from researchers around the world to determine that chocolate, or rather cacao, is a true blue superfood.
But before you sink your life's savings into moving to Chicago to be near the Nutella restaurant of your dreams, hold up. Is all chocolate good for you? Should you really eat that whole bar for dessert? Will it cause your teeth to rot? How can you include it in your everyday diet? Will it really help after you’ve encountered a dementor?
We answer all your pressing chocolate-coated questions.
Why should you include more chocolate in your diet?
It enhances your mood
“I think the reason chocolates are so popular is because they’re a mood enhancer,” says nutritionist Suman Aggarwal, before adding, “It instantly makes you feel better by stimulating the production of endorphins.” Dark chocolate also raises the serotonin levels in your brain. That’s a feel good chemical in charge of mood, sleep and appetite. It also lowers levels of cortisol, your body’s stress hormone.
“Cacao reduces blood pressure and LDL (low-density lipoprotein,” says Suman, “The flavanoids (antioxidants) present in chocolate helps in doing that.” This also helps regulate blood flow and prevents the formation of clots. A research study found that it restores flexibility to your arteries that prevent them from clogging.
It’s good for your brain
“Because it increases the blood flow, it automatically becomes beneficial for your brain,” says Suman, “The regulated blood flow helps in improving your cognitive functions and memory retention.” According to her, chocolate can help those suffering from nerve damage by preventing further deterioration.
It’s packed with nutrients
While dark chocolate is packed with anti-oxidants (twice the amount found in red wine and almost triple the amount in green tea), it’s also rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals. Dark chocolate contains magnesium (“something we don’t get enough of in our everyday diet,” says Suman). It also contains vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, C, D and E and minerals like calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, copper and phosphorus.
It can help you lose weight
In his book Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight, neuroscientist Will Clower claims that chocolate can actually help you with portion control. According to him, if you eat a small square of dark chocolate 20 minutes before a meal, it triggers a hormone in your brain that helps in curbing your appetite.
Will chocolate cause your tooth to rot?
While you should avoid milk chocolate if you want your teeth to be healthy (or have a dentist appointment looming in the near future), make dark chocolate your best friend. “It’s the added sugar and milk that causes the damage,” says Suman. "Dark chocolate contains theobromine that actually hardens the enamel,” she says.
What should you look for when buying chocolate?
A golden ticket? Yes. But just in case you're not living in an alternate universe created by Roald Dahl, the most important thing to look out for is the cacao level in the chocolate. “The minimum is 70-80%. Anything lower than that means that the effectiveness of cacao as a superfood has decreased,” says Suman.
How can you include chocolate as a superfood in your everyday diet?
“You can have hot chocolate, without any added sugar and milk, everyday,” recommends Suman, “It will give you all the benefits and it will be a delicious treat.” For some people, getting past the bitter taste of dark chocolate can be tough. Suman suggests dipping it in the fruit of your choice. “You can go for chocolate covered goji berries, acai berries, dates or strawberries. It will decrease the bitterness of the cacao and give you the additional benefits of the superfood.
You can also treat yourself once in a while with indulgent dark chocolate recipes for your next dinner party or date night. We asked Sunil Patel and Sanjay Bambhaniya, co-founders of The Chocolate Heaven, to share their best recipes involving chocolate.