12 science-backed reasons to eat more chocolate

Move over kale and kombucha. This superfood is good for your emotional and physical health. And the best part? You’ve probably already got a stash in your pantry.

What if there was an ancient superfood that not only tasted great, but was great for you, too?

Well, such a salutary saint exists and we’re pretty sure you’re already its biggest fan.

Introducing chocolate. This sweet offender has long been on the nutrition naughty list, but there is now mounting evidence to suggest the demonised diet staple is, in fact, good for your health.

From reducing depression to improving cognitive function and even supporting foetal development during pregnancy, antioxidant-rich chocolate, it seems, is the ultimate health hero.

So, if you’re a glass and a half full kind of person, here is a definitive list of reasons not to feel guilty for giving in to those 3pm (or, in our case, 24/7) cocoa cravings.

Eating chocolate during pregnancy may be good for the baby

Wine and cheese might be off the list but mums-to-be can relax knowing those sweet craving might just be good for their babies.

A 2016 Canadian study found eating 30 grams of chocolate every day during pregnancy could benefit foetal growth and development.

Previous studies have also linked moderate chocolate consumption during pregnancy with a lower risk of preeclampsia.

Chocolate is linked to lower risk of diabetes and heart disease

Forget pills. Chocolate might be just what the doctor prescribes for people at risk of developing heart disease or diabetes.

Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition has found consuming a small amount of chocolate every day may lower the risk of both. (Probably because trying to avoid the stuff is a stress none of us needs to add to our lives.)

dark chocolate

Dark chocolate may improve eyesight

Chocolate lovers are seeing the light, literally.

Scientists from the University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg School of Optometry in San Antonio, Texas, have discovered that adults who ate dark chocolate saw a significant increase in visual clarity and contrast sensitivity in the two hours after consumption.

Chocolate may be good for gut health

Feeling bloated? Get some chocolate in you.

Researchers from the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom have found chocolate may be the ultimate gut health warrior.

According to the research, people who drank high-cocoa chocolate milk for four weeks measured higher levels of gut-healthy bacteria lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.

In another study, the same team also found chocolate can reduce the growth of bad bacteria associated with inflammatory bowel disease.

Chocolate can improve brain function and cognition

Cramming for an exam or trying to learn figures for an important presentation? Chocolate might be the answer.

According to a study led by University of Nottingham professor Ian Macdonald, eating chocolate could help sharpen the mind and even deliver a short-term cognitive boost.

Consumption of flavanols, a key ingredient in dark chocolate, was found to boost blood flow to the brain for two to three hours, helping to increase performance and boost general alertness.

It can make you feel more awake

The same University of Nottingham study also found that cocoa flavanols in chocolate could be useful in enhancing brain function in people experiencing fatigue, sleep deprivation, and even the effects of ageing.

So if you’re planning on pulling an all-nighter to finish off an assignment, make sure you’ve got a block of chocolate handy.

chocolate benefits

Chocolate can help reduce stress and inflammation

Stressed out? Go ahead, reach for the chocolate bar.

Findings from two recent studies by the Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center in the US found that eating 70 per cent dark chocolate has positive effects on stress levels, inflammation, mood, memory and immunity.

Chocolate can help you concentrate and improve attention span

A study by Northern Arizona University found eating chocolate can improve attention span.

The study, published in the journal NeuroRegulation, used electroencephalography (EEG) to measure the brain activity.

And scans showed that participants who consumed chocolate with 60 per cent cacao were more alert and attentive, highlighting chocolate’s stimulant effects.

Chocolate can help you recover after a workout

Ditch the sports drinks and reach for a carton of chocolate milk after your next workout.

Research published in the Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise journal suggests drinking fat-free chocolate milk after exercise can help the body retain, replenish and rebuild muscle, aiding recovery.

It also found chocolate milk more effective in helping to repair and rebuild muscles after a bout of exercise than specifically designed carbohydrate-based energy drinks.

milk chocolate

Chocolate may actually help keep your weight in check

Chocoholics, rejoice. Research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found people who regularly eat chocolate are more likely to be thinner.

The study by University of California researchers revealed people who ate chocolate frequently had a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who consumed the treat less regularly.

This link was found despite chocolate lovers not making up for the increased calorie intake with additional exercise.

Chocolate can be good for your arteries

Arterial stiffness and cell adhesion are key risk factors for atherosclerosis and, according a study by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, eating dark chocolate can help reduce both.

The sweet stuff was found to help restore arterial flexibility and prevent white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels.

Chocolate can make you happier

They say money can’t buy happiness but it can buy you chocolate, which is pretty much the same thing.

A new study by University College London found eating dark chocolate may positively affect mood and relieve depressive symptoms.

Researchers analysed data from 13,626 adults from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and found individuals who reported eating any dark chocolate in two 24-hour periods had 70 per cent lower odds of reporting clinically relevant depressive symptoms than those who reported not eating chocolate at all.

Written by Tianna Nadalin.