The Health Benefits of Chocolate

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UW Health nutritionists help explain the health benefits of chocolateThe amount of chocolate that Americans consume just around holidays like Easter, Valentine's Day or Halloween can be measured in millions of pounds.


While that's a lot of chocolate, the good news is that we may not have to feel guilty for indulging. In the right form and in moderation, chocolate may actually be beneficial.


Studies have shown that chocolate may also help to boost mood and reduce fatigue by increasing the action of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter in your brain that helps to regulate mood and sleep. More research needs to be done in that area, however, to confirm these findings.


Chocolate contains powerful antioxidants called flavonoids, which may help to lower blood pressure and reduce your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. But, before you stock up on chocolate, keep in mind that not all forms of chocolate contain the same amount of flavonoids.


Dark chocolate contains more than double the level of flavonoids compared with milk chocolate. Furthermore, milk may interfere with the absorption of flavonoids. Therefore, to enjoy the health benefit of chocolate, choose a dark variety that contains at least 70 percent cacao. Although chocolate does contain ingredients that are beneficial to health, don’t eat an unlimited amount. Chocolate is high in fat, sugar and calories. Try sticking with a one-ounce portion of chocolate as a treat, which contains about 150 to 200 calories.


In addition to chocolate, remember to include other flavonoid-rich foods in your diet, including citrus fruits, berries, grapes and unsweetened tea, so pair chocolate with berries or fruit for an extra health benefit.


The bottom line is that moderation is the key, and be sure to choose chocolate with high percentage of cacao (70 percent or more).